12/17/2013 11:56 am ET Updated Feb 16, 2014

Cancer and the Mindset of Healing

Cancer is the disease that keeps on giving. And it's the disease that knows no boundaries. It hits anyone, whether they be young, old, of various ethnicities, LGBT, single, married, rich, poor, professional, or blue collar. You get the picture. I'm not telling you anything you don't know. However, what I am telling you is the truth and often times we don't want to look at the truth. It scares us.

We bop through life, doing what we do, developing some habits that are great and some that are not so great. And, through it all, we never think, "If I continue doing this, I'll get cancer." We are all in denial that our behaviors might create the potential for illness. We are just living, having fun, growing up, having families, and working.

Then, if we are among those who do get cancer, people sometimes tell us it's our own fault, that we created it by some of those behaviors that were risky. Not fair. No one asks for cancer and no one deserves it. Period.

However, if you do get that dastardly diagnosis, you want to have some information to help you deal with it, right? You want to check your mindset. In other words, how you deal with such news?


What do I mean about a mindset? The dictionary defines mindset as: a fixed mental
attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations. It refers to habits of mind formed by previous experience, an intention or inclination, your outlook. So, how do you approach "bad news" when you get it?

• Do you wring your hands?
• Do you exaggerate?
• Do you reach out to others?
• Do you hide under the blanket?
• Do you go into denial?

Truly, how do you handle it?


1. Take it on fully.

Admit your fear, but don't let it consume you. Admit that you have cancer and move forward. Take on doing what has to be done. Put one foot in front of the other.

2. Enroll those you love into being your best fans for "fighting" the disease.

First, tell them what's going on. Then, tell them that you are taking it on fully, that you are not going to let the fear consume you. Help them bolster your resolve to beat it. Realize that you might be braver then them. You might have to reassure them so that
they can reassure you. (Remember, they might not have been through this before either -- so you are both figuring it out as you chug along.)

3. Take people with you to doctor appointments.

If possible, never go alone to the doctor, especially in the beginning while
trying to choose your surgeon and your oncologist. When you take someone with you,
you can have this person write down the details so you can just talk with the doctor. Your support person can hold your hand if you want them to. Allow him or her to ask things you may not have thought of.

And if you're lucky, she will take you out for ice cream after the appointment... just to help you (and her) feel better.

4. Do not spend lots of time exploring cancer on the Internet.

If you spend a lot of time reading about it, it will scare you to death. If you ask the doctors and nurses the right questions, you'll learn what you need to know. They will often provide you with booklets or even books to read. Trust these sources.

5. Start "thriving" -- or in other words, live life fully, from the day you are diagnosed.

See yourself as growing/ regenerating... not just new positive cells, but also new attitudes, new behaviors. How can you be "reinventing" yourself? Maybe cancer will push you in new and exciting directions... changes in the way you behave, the work you do, the services you offer. What does thriving mean to you?

So, perhaps you have been diagnosed or perhaps your loved one has been diagnosed. I urge you to not panic, but rather to begin this new curious adventure in your life. Nothing is accomplished by delving into the worst case scenarios. Well, yes, something's accomplished -- you scare yourself and everyone else around you. That's not great for healing.

I remember that the morning after my own diagnosis: I sat up in bed, I put my feet on the ground, I started to cry... but only for about 60 seconds. Then I said to myself (out loud), "This disease is not going to kill me." I believed it then, and I believe it now. That was over four years ago.

Mindset is the most important part of the journey to heal.

Ann Fry is an executive coach and an inspirational speaker. A longer version of this post appears at