Coping with Cancer: Resiliency

4 Mar

This is the second post in a new series: Coping with Cancer: 20 Ways to Find Calm in the Midst of a Health Storm. The first post, Coping with Cancer: Confusion, can be found here.

Are people born naturally resilient or do they have to work and learn how to become that way?


I think resiliency something you can develop, although I do think some people are more prone to being more resilient than others possibly because of their upbringing or things they observed and learned as a child.  No matter what, I believe that anyone has the power to be resilient – especially if you are a Christian and believe in the power of God to restore you mentally, physically, and spiritually after major (or even minor) setbacks.

Resilience is defined as “the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.” also explains it as the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like.”

If cancer patients don’t have a need for resilience, I don’t know who does.  We’ve been bent, compressed, and stretched about as far as we can go.  One minute you are cruising right along.  Life is good.  Your job is going great.  Your family life is sweet.  You’re happy and content.  And then, out of no where, you get the call.  Something’s not quite right.  We need to look closer.  And before you know it, the rug is yanked out from under you and you are lying flat on your back looking at the world from a completely different angle.  Things are so different that you wonder if things will ever be the same.

Being resilient, having a positive mindset that pushes you to restore yourself to health and life is absolutely crucial for cancer patients.

My dad has a saying whenever something negative happens – a mistake, a big problem, a bit of a crisis.  He’ll say, “it’s a small setback in a big operation.”  I can’t remember how many times I heard that growing up, and still hear it from him.  He never means it to diminish the experience or belittle what I’m feeling.  What he means is that it’s a setback and it needs to be viewed as such.

A setback is not a permanent condition.  It is a pause, a step backwards from the direction we were headed.  But there is nothing that says we have to stay there.

I think there’s such truth in that wisdom.  I’m not saying that cancer is a minor setback, because it can feel HUGE and it is HUGE.  But if we allow it to hold us back from recovering and rebounding to the person we were before (or possibly even becoming better than the person we were before!), we are selling ourselves short.

Maybe we need to think of cancer as a minor setback, a bump in the road in an otherwise fabulous life?  If we believe that we will always be the way we are during treatment, that we will never feel better, that we will always have the “C” hanging over our heads, then we will not be resilient.  We will hold ourselves back from the life that is waiting for us.  It may not be the same life that we left months ago, but it can be a good life.

This can be challenging for those of us who are not “cured,” who do not receive a definitive, “you are cancer free” from our doctors, but I think it’s important all the same.  Once we finish our primary treatment and return to some sense of normalcy, if we continue to allow cancer to invade our thoughts and distract us from the beauty that is all around us, we will be missing out.  And we certainly don’t want to miss out because as cancer patients, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that life is precious and we must savor every second of it.


2 Responses to “Coping with Cancer: Resiliency”

  1. Andrew March 5, 2013 at 5:38 am #

    I would say more than a bump in the road, but I like your Father’s philosophy. But whether a small or big bump, how one gets through it, or lives with it, makes a big difference to the journey, to oneself and those close to one. In many ways, appreciate what one has, appreciate the smaller things in life, and if one’s cancer allows, gradually put your cancer identity in the background.

    • rachturner March 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Yes! How we get through it makes all the difference in the journey.

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