How to adopt a resilient mindset throughout your cancer journey

Mun-Yee Chik

No one enjoys hardship but unfortunately escaping difficult times is often impossible.  

The cancer journey can be challenging and overwhelming. It may trigger many difficult emotions including fear, confusion, stress, and shock.  Even your treatments, which you may feel should make you feel better, may leave you feeling sick, exhausted, anxious, and lonely.  Well-meaning people tell you to ‘stay strong’, but how are you supposed to do that when your entire world is in turmoil? 

Studies find that adopting a resilient mindset can help cancer patients cope better, not just through their cancer journey, but also in recovery.  As an integrative Chinese Medicine practitioner with Functional Medicine training, I am driven by evidence-informed practices and mind-body therapies to increase resilience and enhance the quality of life in people with cancer. I work with women with cancer to develop tools and strategies to reduce cancer risk and minimise its impact on their overall well-being. 

Many of my past clients have found that tapping into their resilience brought them a greater sense of connection, confidence, and control throughout their cancer journey. 

Here we will chat about resilience in your cancer journey and cancer recovery, why you need it, and how to adopt a more resilient mindset. 

What is Resilience and why do I need it? 

The Oxford dictionary definition of resilience is “the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant” or “the ability of a substance to return to its original shape after it has been bent, stretched or pressed”. 

In cancer, resilience involves harnessing your inner strength to cope with your diagnosis and treatment.  

Resilience means rebounding and recovering even in the face of hardship.  

Resilience means adapting to a negative experience and coming out stronger. 

Sounds great right? But how do we make that happen? 

How can I be more resilient? 

There are a few ways you can adopt a resilient mindset to take throughout your cancer journey.   

Keep the lines of communication open. Let us help you. 

The first and most important factor for having resilience through hardship is nurturing a sense of connection through communication.   Lean on your friends, family, healthcare providers, and support system. They’re your biggest advocates and your closest confidants. But they don’t know what you’re going through if you don’t communicate with them. Make sure you regularly schedule quality time talking to trusted friends or loved ones. 

Remember, we are here to support you. Let us. 

Make sure you communicate when you feel you are struggling, when you have questions, and when you need help, care, or company. The same goes for your healthcare team. Communicate clearly what you need from your health providers.   Ask all the questions you need. If you find you are struggling mentally at any point, communicate that. Your doctor may be able to arrange a mental health care plan or refer you to an appropriate support group. 

Don’t suffer in silence.  

Resilience isn’t about putting on a strong front. 

Resilience is about communicating your needs and accepting help and support.  

You are not alone. We’re here for you. Tell us how we can help you. 

Anticipate and prepare for possible change.  

With a cancer diagnosis comes inevitable change.  Change to your body, change to your routine, change to your lifestyle.  

The Prostate Cancer Help association Inc. advises that the best way to cope with the changes that come with a cancer diagnosis is to anticipate and prepare for them. 

You could begin by talking to your doctor about likely medication side effects you may experience, what surgery and recovery may look like for you, will you need to make alterations to your clothing or to your home? Are there any other physical changes you should anticipate? 

Consider your treatment schedule. Will you need to spend time in the hospital? Will you need to attend regular medical appointments? Might you be unwell or have pain? 

You should consider if you will manage your regular routine. Will you be up to completing your normal activities? If not, it is advisable to prepare yourself, your workplace, and your family for the possibility that you may need to take some time out. 

Try to maintain your lifestyle. 

Often people find comfort in maintaining their normal lifestyle as much as possible.  

The Mayo Clinic agrees with this but also advises that you may need to adopt some flexibility in your day.  

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. If organising and attending your normal activities feels like too much, that’s ok. Maintain your lifestyle where you can and where you want to, but allow yourself the space to take time out where you need to.  

Remember, resilience doesn’t come from trying to do everything or from pushing yourself too hard. Resilience comes from adapting to your circumstance. It comes from knowing when you need a break and taking it. 

Take one day at a time and do what you can. That’s all you need to do. 

Talk to other people with cancer. 

Ovarian Cancer Australia finds that people who go to cancer support groups are better able to manage anxiety, less likely to feel isolated and they tend to cope better through their cancer journey.  

Talking to friends and family is great, but if they’ve not experienced cancer for themselves, it may be hard for them to understand your experiences and emotions. 

Talking to others who are in, or have been in, a similar situation is great for your mental well-being. Others with lived experience may tell you their stories or help you to prepare for what you should expect in your future. 

It is helpful to connect with a support group as soon after your diagnosis as you can. If there is no group in your area, or if you can’t physically travel to meet, you may find comfort in online support groups or message boards.  

Talk to your healthcare team if you’d like help connecting. 

How can MyOnco Thrive Help? 

While resilience may not help to reduce cancer risk, it certainly better equips you to cope with a cancer diagnosis. 

Adopting a resilient mindset is so important for looking after your mental and emotional well-being throughout your cancer journey.  

I help women with cancer to approach their journey with knowledge and hope, rather than fear and confusion. 

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cancer?  

If you're finding yourself struggling to keep a resilient mindset, contact me, Mun-Yee, today to set up a wellness framework that is preventative, restorative, and participatory to equip you with tools and strategies to reduce cancer risk and minimise its impact on your overall well-being.  


All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. MyOncoThrive can consult with you to confirm if a particular treatment is right for you.

Latest Articles

View All Articles

Supporting Your Loved One Through Their Cancer Journey

Cancer is stressful, not just for the person receiving the diagnosis, but for those around them too. It’s common for family and friends to feel scared, confused, and overwhelmed. Even if you’re not the one with cancer, your emotions are valid. Cancer can be difficult for everyone.

How to adopt a resilient mindset throughout your cancer journey

Studies find that adopting a resilient mindset can help cancer patients cope better, not just through their cancer journey, but also in recovery.