“Look to this day, for it is life, . . . For yesterday is but a dream, And tomorrow is only a vision. But today, well lived, Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, And every tomorrow a vision of hope."

Cancer's Existential Questions

The threat of serious illness often unleashes a search for answers to some of life's most profound and complex questions such as the meaning of life and why we exist. Patients often find it hard to speak of this dimension for a variety of reasons. The following collection of articles is from the minds and hearts of experts - almost all are cancer survivors.

  • Choosing Life

    The importance of a positive attitude and the challenges to staying the course due to cancers psychological and physical headwinds including a summary of tips relating to Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Sexuality, and Relaxation.

  • The Will to Live

    Why and how it can be nurtured, protected and strengthened.

  • Living with Mortality

    Explores how patients react when diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease and details the stages of the reaction: disbelief, discovery, redirection, resolution, and emerging victorious.

  • Hope as a Strategy

    Hope is one of the greatest allies supporting quality of life and can be a major tool of empowerment and an element for sustaining life and the will to live.

Choosing Life

Ernest H. Rosenbaum, M.D., and Isadora R. Rosenbaum, M.A.

Key Concepts: Patient responsibilities, Coping Strategies, The role of hope, Words to Family and Friends.

In This Article: This article is a succinct overview of the survival strategies found in the Everyone's Guide for Cancer book-series. The authors discuss patient responsibilities, the importance of a positive attitude and the challenges to staying the course due to psychological and physical headwinds including a summary of tips relating to Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Sexuality, and Relaxation. Included is a message for family and friends highlighting their important role, the need for candor, the impact of cancer on the children of patients, and how to handle the stresses and issues relating to lengthy illnesses. The article's essence is summed in the closing paragraphs, namely: the purpose of life is to live.

“Look to this day, for it is life, . . . For yesterday is but a dream, And tomorrow is only a vision. But today, well lived, Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

The Will to Live

Ernest H. Rosenbaum, M.D., and Isadora R. Rosenbaum, M.A.

Key Concepts: The power of the mind, The decision to live, how facing the uncertainties of living with an illness makes life more meaningful.

In This Article:The authors describe the medical profession's observations about the power of the will to live. The article discusses the turning point - the moment when patients became able to tap this source of energy. The article then covers why the will to live is important, how it can be nurtured, how it can be protected and then strengthened. The important and evolving role of hope in the course of cancer treatment is explored.

We often ask our patients to explain how they are able to transcend their problems. We have found that however diverse they are in ethnic or cultural background, age, educational level, or type of illness, they have all gone through a similar process of psychological recovery. They all consciously made a “decision to live

Living with Mortality: Life Goes On

Malin Dollinger, M.D., and Bernard Dubrow, M.S.

Key Concepts: How the threat of serious illness unleashes a wide range of moods and emotions and then a search for answers. Why, to avoid confusion and despair, these and other contradictory feelings have to be sorted out, faced squarely, and dealt with.

In This Article :In this article, the authors discuss how people diagnosed as having a chronic potentially fatal disease react, think, and behave. The article explores stages that help in dealing with the idea of mortality, specifically: disbelief, discovery, redirection, resolution, and emerging victorious. The authors’ share that understanding the patterns of reaction to a prolonged illness with perhaps years of remission and a significant chance of being cured will help you put your emotional survival in focus while your doctor concentrates on your physical survival. You will also realize that whatever stage you may be in, you are not alone. Your loved ones will be able to help you go on living. You will renew your confidence and zest in life, deal with fear and worry, discover new value and meaning in your life, achieve gratification, and even attain peace of mind.

We revel in life’s beginning, wrestle with its challenges, and take pride in our achievements. We know deep down that we are mortal and that our lives will end some time in the future—the distant future, we hope—but we are not consciously aware of our mortality from day to day....But if the threat to life by disease is accepted, understood, and dealt with, life, not death, will be the winner.