“Let's try to make something good out of something really bad,” says “Survivor: Africa” winner, and lymphoma survivor, Ethan Zohn.
Living with cancer can be an isolating experience. The key to getting through it, says “Survivor: Africa” winner and lymphoma survivor Ethan Zohn, is to push through the uncertainty and reach out for help, whether from friends, family, or fellow patients who understand the struggle.
In a recent interview with CURE®, Zohn opened up about what helped him through his own diagnosis of a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 35, after appearing on the hit reality show “Survivor” and playing professional soccer earlier in his life.
“My advice for someone who's facing a recent diagnosis is to surround yourself with the family and friends that care for you the most,” said Zohn. “Be vulnerable and open enough to ask for and receive help, as well. I think that's important.”
While Zohn noted that it can be difficult to find and make connections with others, some organizations exist solely to help patients with cancer bridge that gap. Zohn credits groups like Stupid Cancer and Imerman Angels with helping him through his own cancer treatment and recovery. “If you're not the type of person who's going to want to call up or talk to a shrink, there are incredible programs (out there),” said Zohn.
Creativity and mindfulness are other important factors that Zohn says helped him get through his own diagnosis, particularly during the long stretches in isolation while recovering from two stem cell transplants. “Everyone talks about being creative in isolation,” Zohn said. “I agree, it's good, being creative sparks your mind in a different way and helps pass the time in isolation. But in addition to that, it's a way to connect with other people.”
Focusing on non-cancer related things like art classes, yoga or meditation classes that may be more readily available online now due to the COVID-19 pandemic could be helpful for patients or survivors to branch out of their comfort zone and connect with others. “This is a good way to break down barriers, distract yourself from the reality of what's going on in your life right now, and connect with others in a way that might not be around cancer that might make you feel a little bit comfortable.”
Finally, finding a purpose is one of the best ways to cope with cancer. “I live by the saying to ‘never let a crisis go to waste’, because it's an opportunity to do some really important things,” said Zohn.
After he received his diagnosis and took some time to determine his treatment plans and contemplate his future, Zohn then turned his focus to helping others by sharing his story. “Here I was using my cancer nightmare, the worst thing that could possibly happen to me, to help others in the world, said Zohn. “Helping others get diagnosed earlier, helping them manage their cancer care has been made it worthwhile for me to talk about my journey.”
“Let's try to make something good out of something really bad.”