Cancer Treatment Centers of America

The danger of comparison: Positive ways to manage your cancer journey

blog dangers comparing cancers

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it can feel good to share your experience with other patients, especially if they have the same cancer and stage as you. Relating is important, but it can lead to comparison.

Joanna Montgomery, a survivor of fallopian tube cancer, wrote a column in The Huffington Post about the dangers of comparing your cancer journey with another person’s. She writes:

“It ain't over 'til it's over. So as tempting as it may be to start preparing for the end, a far more productive use of your time is to prepare for what's next. And if you catch yourself comparing your situation to someone else's, remember: You are on your own journey. Your outcome has not been decided. You are unique; you are radiant; you are alive; and you are here. So be here.”

How can you reap the benefits of sharing with other cancer patients and focus on the positive? First, remember every person is unique. Although someone’s cancer experience may seem identical to yours, many variables are at play. The truth is, there are people who have thrived against all odds, and sadly some who have lost their battle. Each person’s story is different, and for many has yet to be written.

The mind and heart can have intangible effects on your experience with cancer, says Dr. David Wakefield, Mind-Body Therapist at our hospital in Tulsa. Some patients believe that their faith has an immeasurable impact on their survival, while others naturally look towards the positive even in times of uncertainty – what Dr. Wakefield calls “marinating your mind in the positive.”

Remembering that your cancer is not like anyone else’s can be difficult, especially when someone with an outlook just like yours passes away. They may have had the same resilience, the same treatment plan and even the same nutrition plan. “During these times, remember that one person’s story, however similar, doesn’t have to be your story,” says Dr. Wakefield. “Tell yourself, ‘I refuse to make their journey my journey.’”

Dr. Wakefield also suggests choosing a mantra to repeat whenever negative thoughts creep in. This could be as simple as “I am not a statistic,” or “I’m unique, so my journey will be unique.”

Peoples’ ability to bounce back during difficult times is also important. Below are 16 traits that help people stay resilient during their cancer journey:

  1. Have a mission and purpose in life
  2. Increase your self-awareness
  3. Examine and change beliefs
  4. Maintain your sense of humor
  5. Interrupt and change negative talk
  6. Focus on problem solving
  7. Take small steps
  8. Learn to appreciate yourself
  9. Surround yourself with positive people
  10. Determine to transcend any storm you face
  11. Practice perseverance
  12. Keep your perspective
  13. Remember the importance of self-care
  14. Nurture your self-esteem
  15. Work on a positive attitude
  16. Remain hopeful

“When a doctor tells someone how long they have to live, it does irreparable damage to their psyche and their soul. So many people make it a self-fulfilling prophecy and it doesn’t have to be,” says Dr. Wakefield.

Learn more about mind-body medicine.