Understanding the Mindset of Someone in Cancer Treatment

Posted: April 6, 2021






Mental Health


Like most trials in life, it’s impossible to know what it’s like to have cancer unless you’ve been through it yourself. Even if you have, no two cancer experiences are identical. When someone you love gets their cancer diagnosis, your support matters even when you can’t fathom what they’re going through. 

We’re here to do our best at helping you understand the mindset of someone after a cancer diagnosis. If you’ve found your hands (or tongue) tied on how to help, reading this is a great first step. Here’s to connecting on a deeper level, even if just 1% more, with your loved one going through cancer. 

Cancer doesn’t define someone.

We wear a lot of identities throughout our life (e.g. nerd, athlete, manager, or #dogmom). But when it’s sun up to sun down of cancer talk and activities, a diagnosis can quickly become someone’s unwelcomed identity. Your bud is more than their cancer. A lot more! 

Remember the “old them” and keep as much as that alive as possible. They’re grieving their life before diagnosis and figuring out how to maintain some level of normalcy. As their supporter, you can help.

For example, if your bud was always a skilled bartender at parties, you can have a Saturday night “mocktails and chill” where you come up with creative mixed drinks together (or over Zoom). 

If they’re an avid blogger who hasn’t had as much time because of treatment, you can share their work online, hyping them up to your networks. Showing support is free.

Whether your bud is starting to navigate treatment or emerging back into “normal” life after recovery, know that it’s hard for them. Patience, grace, and empathy will make all the difference.

There’s no one-size-fits-all method for connection. A diagnosis and treatment process brings on physical and emotional side effects that are unique to the patient. They could seem fine on the outside but be struggling on the inside. Coping looks different for everyone. So does connecting with others.

Oftentimes, your bud may want to keep their cancer talk to those in the trenches with them, living a similar experience. That’s okay. The buddhi conversation forum allows for cancer patients and thrivers to blow off steam, interact, or anonymously vent. 

Each day is different.

A cancer diagnosis means unpredictability. Going through it means different appointments, different treatment, and different struggles. 

This makes it impossible to predict how your bud might be feeling at any given time. Some days, they’re exhausted and overwhelmed. Next, they’re feeling hopeful and strong. Don’t assume, and don’t take it personally if they don’t seem responsive to you in a way you’d expect. They’re going through all the feels

Familiarize yourself with the stages of grief. This process for new hardships, death, or big changes includes:

  1. denial

  2. anger

  3. bargaining

  4. depression

  5. acceptance

Not everyone will follow the stages in this order; they may experience them in waves. The timing isn’t cookie-cutter, either. Grief awareness can help you identify and form expectations on how to support your bud through it.

Hallmark language isn’t always best. Not every well-intended wish lands as gracefully as Simone Biles on a beam. Phrases like “Get well soon,” can do more harm than good for your bud’s mindset. Read our list of what not to say (and what to say instead) to someone going through cancer.

Cancer doesn’t end when treatment ends. 

The hard truth: cancer will always be a part of this person’s life. That’s why buddhi’s founder, Kathleen Brown, is passionate about building this community of thrivers to connect at any stage. As a childhood cancer survivor, she knows there is so much heaviness, loss, and even side effects that linger well into adulthood.

The pandemic is scary. COVID-19 has raised even more concern for the cancer community. This group is more susceptible to complications of illnesses, even when the cancer has already gone. This time is extra lonely for your bud. The best thing you can do as a supporter is respect boundaries, follow safety precautions, and send virtual love. 

Cancer touches the person’s whole life. Things that inevitably are affected by cancer:

  • Confidence

  • Body image

  • Relationships and family dynamics

  • Sexual intimacy

  • Long-term health issues

  • Life goals and priorities 

  • Finances

Can you imagine even one or two of those things being drastically changed at the same time? It’s like a whole-ass dump truck smacks them into a new dimension, bruises and all. 

Our goal is to reduce friction between your bud and their support system, so it's easier for them to navigate treatment and recovery without overwhelming feelings of isolation.

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