Staying Mentally Strong After Cancer: ‘It’s a Balancing Act’

From finding tasks to feel in control of his well-being to spending time with loved ones, one man describes how he takes care of his mental health after cancer.

Maintaining the right headspace has been a top priority all my life, and especially since being diagnosed with bone cancer.

Although stress and anxiety seem like constant companions, I do my best to keep positive by focusing instead on what I call “earning my health” each day. This means eating as clean and healthy as possible, taking all my vitamins and supplements, using my infrared sauna to detox – checking whatever boxes may strengthen my immune system and help me feel more in control.

I also meditate and begin each morning writing morning pages to clear my thoughts and work through problems. Doing this allows me to stay on top of priorities, and time seems to slow down on the pages while I tinker away with ideas from a more relaxed space.

Since I’m home on medical leave/disability, it’s easy to feel isolated but I’ve found that getting outside helps take the edge off. Something about the fresh air, feeling the sun against my skin, seeing people out on the streets — it all lightens the intensity of being enclosed in a tight apartment. Having a dog helps too because she gets me out of my own head while I’m focused on caring for her and taking her out on walks.

And of course, it’s important to schedule enough time around friends and family, or whoever in your life offers positivity, love and support. Sometimes they remind me about everything I’ve overcome when I’m feeling down on myself and that keeps things in a healthy perspective for me.

This year, I’ve developed a love of storytelling and have been writing my first draft of a novel. That’s done wonders for my spirit — just having something to immerse in that distracts from hardships and fills me with joy. I also get to call myself a writer and build a new future that doesn’t revolve exclusively around the identity of cancer fighter.

At the same time, I have to pay attention to whenever I’m pushing myself too hard. For example, I struggle with arthritis, especially during the colder months, and so when my hip starts acting up, I’ll be out of commission on the couch for a while, rotating between ice packs and heating pads. The limitations can be frustrating, but I’ve learned to chalk them up as just coming with the territory and remind myself that it can be and has been much, much worse.

I find that it’s all a balancing act. And at least for me, when these key areas of my life are nurtured — that’s when I tend to think most optimistically and operate at my best.

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