Why Cancer Survivors Need Mindfulness

Serious illness often marks both body and mind: Mindfulness helps us to face what we would rather not: learning from the unwanted, perhaps even being enriched by it.

Illustration by Andrea Mongia

A friend told me that after the treatment of her cancer, it took her a year to return to being a “normal” person, getting on with the day-to-day business of living. Recovery is not typically recognized as a transition requiring adjustment. It’s kind of like when you lose a loved one and you get three days off work to grieve: We often need more time than expected. Likewise, once a fight with cancer is over, you cope with the end of your role as the star in your own drama. 

It’s kind of like when you lose a loved one and you get three days off work to grieve: We often need more time than expected. 

And, as with any significant life event, while you may outwardly seem the same, often there is an internal change, some wisdom gained about the preciousness and fragility of our brief lives. We may appreciate what it really means to be mindful  of each moment as best we can. 

Fortunately for me and for many, breast cancer is now a treatable disease. So here I am, alive, for the moment a survivor. Having come through a change—the end of my pre-cancer life, a chaotic and emotional period of coping, and finally…

Subscribe for unlimited access to Mindful.org

Already a digital subscriber?
Log in to access this article.