My Cancer Diagnosis Served As A Huge Life Wakeup Call

I have cancer and it's teaching me how to be happy.

Last updated on May 09, 2024

Cancer teaching woman how to be happy in the mist of difficult times SHVETS production | Pexels, Nongbassbasic | Canva

It can be challenging for healthy people to find happiness. But for those who have been diagnosed with a terrible disease (or have loved ones who have been diagnosed), it can be even more difficult. But it isn't impossible. To find out more, we asked several of our Your Tango experts to weigh in on how to be happy when you have cancer.

No matter what, a bad diagnosis will make you rethink your priorities and what matters in life. While that can be scary or paralyzing, our experts say this can be a positive development.


For instance, expert Joyce Fine suggested that those diagnosed should "consistently extend themselves to those they love, put first-world (luxury) problems in perspective, and be mindful of the happiness they can have right now — whether they have decades or moments more to live."

RELATED: How I Found Hope In A Terminal Prognosis — After Permitting Myself To Die

Expert Stuart Fensterheim agreed, noting, "The sad part of terminal illness is you realize that you will miss the lost opportunities, but also it's the solution to the happiness. When you have a terminal illness you want to make sure your experiences are all about making every day count. Live life to the fullest so whether or not you become ill, have a terminal illness like cancer, or live a long life, you know that you have made your life and the lives of those you interact with better because your paths have crossed."


This means that you need to embrace — and not run away from — the life that you are living. Expert Eliot LeBow, who has Type I diabetes stated, "It was difficult, but I used my diagnosis as a motivator to live every day to its fullest. I decided to go places I have never been, try things I have never tried, and enjoy life."

RELATED: Life Beyond A Really Horrible Diagnosis

Your illness gives you a rare opportunity to evaluate your life and break free from some of the unpleasant bonds that are holding you back. While healthy people are often very willing to go along with the status quo, expert Jillian Frazin encourages those who are ill to use the time to "change the things that you would have never considered changing before."


But how can people get to a place where they are interested and motivated to start making the most of life? For LeBow, the answer was to see a therapist, who helped him make "more positive choices." What those choices are depends on you, but it may just be as simple as choosing to get up and keep going every day. 

RELATED: How A Devastating Breast Cancer Diagnosis Forced Me Into A Purpose-Driven Life

Expert Ane Axfor's friend, Jenessa, survived colon cancer, by "focusing on getting to the milestones." For Jenessa, "It's not about being brave or strong or positive — just to keep going. Maybe that's what bravery is, to keep going, and happiness comes in along the way."


You never know till you try. I guess happiness comes to those who wait. It may take longer than you want it to. 

RELATED: Doctor With Terminal Cancer Shares The Three Things Everyone Should Consider Doing To Prepare For Death

Eliot LeBow is a psychotherapist, owner of DiabeticTalks, and leading authority on diabetes-related well-being.