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Often I am asked, “How are you doing so well?”

Whether it is fighting cancer or getting up after life knocks me down, I have a few tips and tactics that I’ve developed to keep me going. I’ve encountered more than my fair share of overwhelming situations, and these pillars of wellness have served as my main coping mechanisms.

does cancer make you feel


I love acronyms, and this one has become really important to me. It stands for Attitude, Nutrition, Treatment, Support and You. Each one represents a different dimension of my approach to dealing with cancer, but can be applied to any serious or complex medical condition.

  • Do not worry unless you have cause or reason to – focus on what is going right, not what is going wrong
  • Stay positive – there is no point in being negative; prepare for the worst possible outcome, work upward from there, and hope for the best
  • Be tenacious – assess which risk factors around your situation you can control and do all you can to command authority over them; be persistent in your pursuit to be absolutely, 100% satisfied with your plan and your care, and do not stop until you are
  • Be tough – this is the time to dig deep and develop a healthy amount of stubbornness to be bigger and stronger than your disease; whining and self-pity will only feed the enemy
  • Remain resilient – when you have a setback, map out steps to recover in the quickest way possible; the longer you stay down, the harder it will be to get back up
  • Push out negative thoughts – when a negative thought enters your head, make a conscious effort to replace it with a positive one and utilize self-talk to do this (e.g. “I am going to die” should be replaced telling yourself out loud, emphatically “I am going to live”)
  • Inject humor when appropriate – you can cry about everything, or you can laugh; crying will only drain you, while laughter will invigorate you
  • Fully commit – you do not want any regrets or “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve;” throw yourself and all of your energy into your fight; it’s the absolute best use of your resources

*Ask your doctor before initiating any supplements


  • Eat “Foods That Fight Cancer” (
  • Check Vitamin D levels – supplement if necessary
  • Hydrate (force fluids!)
  • Daily probiotic – either yogurt or supplement
  • Daily low dose aspirin
  • Daily multi vitamin
  • Movement (yoga) / Exercise
  • Diet –tree nuts, low sugar, low dairy, low sodium, low alcohol, low red meat, plant based, high protein, NO processed meat
  • Integrative techniques (e.g. massage, acupuncture, reiki)
  • Infection control (i.e. remove shoes, wash hands, limited contact during treatment week)



  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Deep Breathing
  • Music Therapy / Art Therapy
  • Journaling
  • Decluttering
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  • Essential Oils (e.g. lavender, lemon, peppermint, frankincense)
  • Pharmacological intervention (e.g. mood stabilizers, antidepressants)
  • Know as much as you can about your family health history and be honest about your risk factors
  • Have a medical team you respect, trust, love, and understand
  • Have a Plan A, B, C, and D – embrace the plan and follow it
  • Be affiliated with a large, academic NCI-Designated cancer center
  • Do not be afraid to seek a second (or even third opinion)
  • Know your biomarkers and ask for genetic testing on your tumor
  • Be familiar with clinical trials for your disease long before if/when you need them
  • Stay ahead of pain and side effects with pharmacological intervention
  • Seek complementary and integrative medicine techniques to help with symptom management
  • Remain involved in all decision making
  • Be your own advocate- do not feel intimidated to ask questions and take as much time as you need during your exam to feel comfortable and confident
  • Do what feels right when weighing treatment options vs. quality of life – this is YOUR plan, YOUR life, YOUR rules – a medical team can provide guidance, but ultimately you are in charge
  • “Cancer Coach” - someone who has successfully beaten cancer, or whatever ailment you are facing
  • Doctor – primary care physician, oncologist, surgeon
  • Midlevel Provider- physician assistant, nurse practitioners
  • Nurse
  • Registered Dietician
  • Mental Health Therapist - psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor
  • Faith Administrator – priest, minister, pastor, rabbi
  • Family
  • Best Friend – someone who has seen/heard you at your worst and will never judge you no matter what your actions/impressions; this person is unconditionally “Team YOU”; you could call them at any time, day or night and they will be there for you
  • Support Group – could be in person, virtual, or online
  • Financial Counselor
  • Treatment Companion – someone to drive you to/from treatment and/or keep you company
  • Meal Train – ( or a way to coordinate meals for you and your family)
  • Task Force – people to help with every day functions (e.g. laundry, errands, dishes, snow removal, grass cutting, house cleaning, pet care)
  • Immerse yourself in positivity – you always aspire to your highest level of emotion
  • Self care – get proper rest, conserve energy, and perform daily hygiene
  • Maintain balance – this isn’t the time to start training for a marathon; keep doing whatever you’ve been doing; routine is critical in keeping your immune system strong
  • Identify your purpose – figure out who/what you are fighting for; let it lift you above your disease
  • Do not let your disease confine or define you – you are NOT your disease; you are still you – this is just something you have to deal with right now
  • Hate impedes healing – let go of past quarrels
  • Don’t compare your situation to others – “stay in your lane”; you are not a statistic; each person’s DNA is different; you can be the “responder”; you can be the 10%; you can beat this!
  • Don’t look back – you can’t look ahead if you are looking behind you; second guessing will only frustrate you
  • Accept your “new normal” – it’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly fine for survival; adapt and keep evolving
  • Keep moving forward – setbacks are inevitable, but your general direction is forward; if you find yourself in reverse, switch gears
  • Trust your gut instinct – if you feel something is “off” with your body, it probably is; gain the necessary information to make a rational decision about how to proceed; the truth may be scary, but the unknown is scarier
  • Set boundaries- it’s ok to say no to circumstances that cause you unnecessary stress and anxiety; your focus is YOU and your full restoration

what about

side effects of treatment?

Side effects go hand-in-hand with treatment.  Make sure you know what side effects that you should expect, when they will occur and how long they will last.  Also identify how they are tied to your treatment.  In other words, are the side effects dose dependent?  You should also be mentally prepared for side effects to affect your appearance or your day-to-day functioning at outings (i.e. do you have to be near a bathroom).  Finally, have a plan to follow if side effects impact your ability to receive and/or continue treatment.

Tips/tactics I’ve implemented:

*I did not experience diarrhea, vomiting, baldness, rash, or radiation burns.*

  • Zofran by prescription (nausea)
  • Protonix by prescription (reflux)
  • Pineapple (fatigue/nausea)
  • Coconut oil (surgery scars)
  • Non-alcohol based mouthwash (dry mouth/mouth sores)
  • Sparkling water (nausea/dehydration)
  • Ginger (nausea)
  • Peppermint oil / Bubblemint gum (nausea)
  • Flaxseed oil (constipation)
  • Aloe Vera juice (constipation)
  • Antibacterial soap (infection control)
  • Lavender oil (sleeplessness)
  • Coffee (constipation)
  • Foot massager (neuropathy)
  • Exercise/movement (fatigue)
  • Hand/foot cream (dryness, skin irritation)
  • Mints/lemon candies/using plastic silverware (changes in taste)
  • Sunscreen (sun sensitivity)
  • Protein shakes (weight loss)

What questions could you ask your healthcare team?

#BigStace has some important questions you might think about asking your healthcare team when you're diagnosed with cancer or another complex diagnosis. Enter your email address, and I'll send them to your inbox!