Finding a Balance - 7 Ideas for Not Being All Lung Cancer All the Time

Finding a Balance - 7 Ideas for Not Being All Lung Cancer All the Time

Does it seem like every conversation you have ends up being about your lung cancer? Is it the first thing you think about in the morning, the last thing you think about at night? Are your social media feeds one cancer related item after another? Do you wish sometimes that you could just live, and not think about lung cancer at all?

You are not alone; I think that everyone who lives with a serious disease goes through periods when the disease seems to dominate everything in life. When we are acutely ill, it may be difficult or impossible to focus on anything else, but in periods of relative stability, we could benefit from a better balance between our illness and everything else that is going on in our world.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for finding that balance, and perhaps a bit of peace.

Empathize with others first. When talking to family, friends, and acquaintances, open the conversation by asking about them. Really listen, and engage with their stories about their lives before talking about what is going on with yours. We all experience difficulties and joys, and paying attention to other people’s might help us put our own struggles and triumphs into better balance.

Have some friendly, non-detailed responses on hand for the question, “How are you?”. We don’t have to go into when our next scan is coming up or any of the details of our current treatments every time someone asks us this. “I’m doing well at the moment, thanks for asking” works when you are stable. Handling this question when your lung cancer is changing can be more difficult if you don’t want to get into a long conversation. Perhaps you can say. “I’m in transition right now, but my doctor and I have a plan.” The idea is to stay away from words that relate specifically to cancer, like oncologist or chemo.

Keep up with your usual interests and hobbies. Keep loving your family, friends, and pets. Read a novel, go to a concert, watch television. If you followed the news before, keep doing so, and don’t let the latest cancer research dominate the news you read. Feed your interests other than lung cancer by spending time with them, so that you have new things to talk about other than your illness.

Go on vacation. I find that I think about my illness the least when I am having fun in a place other than where I live.

Keep right on looking your best. When I was first diagnosed, one of my first thoughts was that I shouldn’t buy myself new clothes any more, but should use what I have. Since then, I’ve lost and regained weight and spoken at public events, and I have bought some clothes. Having clothes that fit me well and that are up to date helps me to feel more normal, which means I’m not thinking about my illness as much.

Ask the question: What am I getting out of the the attention I give to lung cancer? In my case, when I do lung cancer advocacy work - writing articles, speaking publicly, responding to other people’s questions - I feel better, not worse. I’m the kind of person who wants to fix things, and advocacy is a way to help improve things for lung cancer patients. Other people are going to have different answers to this question.

Volunteer as you are able. Many people no longer work after their lung cancer diagnosis, and their days may have more unstructured hours. Some kind of work, even if only a few hours per week, may help reduce brooding and compulsive internet surfing. Helping others is a great way to spend less time thinking about your own situation.

Can you take a step away from lung cancer from time to time? What is the most effective way for you to put your illness aside?

Photo credit: Pixabay picture by Wokandapix, CC0 Public Domain

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13 Replies

  • Anita,

    This is so spot-on for so many different challenging times in our lives! Cancer is certainly at the top of that list - but this advice is healthy common sense about how to pull out of where we get stuck, at least for a little while. Thank you so very much for these great tips for handling a really tough situation. Hugs.

  • Thanks, Peggy. I'm glad to hear that you think the list could be useful for a variety of situations.


  • Well said Anita. Good suggestions for dealing with questions about our health. Keeping the mind and body active certainly helps me. Now with the weather in Wisconsin getting nicer, getting outside is a pleasure. Keep up the good advice. I truly appreciate it. Jean

  • Thanks, Jean. There is something about spring that always gets me out of a rut. I love watching life return. Right now my perennials are pushing through the earth, the lilacs are bidding, and the visitors at the bird feeder include purple finches and newly golden goldfinches. Our climates might be pretty similar!


  • Great post Anita!

  • Anita thank you! I needed to hear this. I'm a survivor and for sure I'm thankful but often time my mind wonders....."what if it reacurres or any pain or discomfort in my lung area means that somethings happening" i have no one to share this with so i often read stories in this community and this is my support....I'm very grateful to read support posting such as yours. Thanks again. Blessings to everyone🌺

  • Thank you, Faith. Congratulations on being a survivor!

  • I've taken myself off of the cancer pills. It seems like they do more harm than good anyway. Had I not had hip replacement surgery, they would never have discovered my lung cancer because I had no symptoms and I hadn't smoked in 26 years. If I can make it through another XX years without symptoms, it beats the heck out of dealing with this ungodly disease and the drugs they use to combat it. For me, FAITH is the answer.

  • There are two other drugs, Tarceva and Iressa, that are also used for first-line treatment of EGFR mutated adenocarcinoma. Both are easier on the system than afatinib, with Iressa the milder of the two. Did your doctor ever discuss an alternative with you? Maybe you should seek a second opinion with a doctor who will work with you to make quality of life the number one treatment goal. Wishing you well, AtoyotA

  • No. He only told me that my type of cancer is incurable. He did not mention any alternative drugs. He said Afitanibs were the newest drug available. I am now off of them and feel much better.

  • I strongly suggest you seek a second opinion. This doctor is not giving you complete information and he is dealing out half-truths. Afatinib was approved in 2013, which is almost ancient history in the rapidly changing world of lung cancer oral treatments. And "newest" does not equal "best for this particular patient". There ARE doctors who communicate well, who make sure you know all the options available to you, who know how to help with quality of life issues. You deserve to have such a doctor.

  • What a jerk. I see him tomorrow. He probably just wants me out of his hair.

  • AtoyotA,

    Please listen to Anita, she is spot on. There is more to do here, and still respect your quality of life. If you would some information on second opinions: just scroll down to "Getting a Second Opinion".

    Please keep in touch, we are all thinking about you!

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