Living with cancer blog

Take your mind off cancer for a while

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. January 15, 2016

This past week, I was reflecting on how having a diagnosis of cancer impacts an individual as well as their family and friends.

Cancer changes almost every aspect of your life, especially immediately after diagnosis and during treatment. For some of you, treatment never ends. You're reminded of your diagnosis on a regular basis.

One of the most significant ways to help may be to take your mind off it for a while. This was reflected by a woman I recently met during a class here at Mayo Clinic.

She told me she was getting great support from others around her. In fact, she said what she needed most was to spend time with others when the word "cancer" wasn't mentioned at all.

She told me she loved being invited to do things like go shopping, see a movie, go to a concert, exercise or just get together and have coffee. In this way, she got a break from the stress and worry of thinking about cancer.

Health care professionals need to remember this. In the midst of the intense time of appointments, tests, scans and treatment, we need to consider that you may want to take a break and not think about cancer.

A few ideas for breaking away — even if it's just for a little while — might include:

  • Get creative — explore writing, art and music to transport you to a different place and time.
  • Read a book or magazine.
  • Keep an exercise routine — join a local gym, sign up for a new class or invite a friend out for a walk.
  • Make a list — jot down all of the things that you enjoy in life and make plans to include at least one each day.

Think back to a time when a friend or family member said or did just the right thing at the right moment. What helped you the most? Share with others some of the ways that you took your mind off cancer.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

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Jan. 15, 2016