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Published on March 21, 2016

To Cope or Not to Cope

March 21, 2016

plant growing in concrete crackOne thing that comes to mind as I write this article is the ability to cope.

“Cope” is an interesting word. As a social worker, I have used this word a lot with patients and have learned it can mean “just getting by” or to cope well with the “intention of moving from a difficult place to a better place.” Patients often tell me they want to live well with their cancer rather than exist with it.

A patient once told me, “When you are well [healthy] you think you do not have enough time [in the day to get things done] but when you become sick [and have to quit your job] you have all the time in the world.” And now she struggles with wondering if she was going to live very long, she grieved the loss of the only identity she knew. Her life was looking very different than the life she left behind. She met with me for a few months, and through counseling, education, and support groups, she learned a “new normal” way of coping that helped her through the shock and numbness of the diagnosis, the yearning and searching of what was lost in her life having cancer, and then finally she worked her way to reconcile her life around her cancer diagnosis.

And along with validation and listening ears from me and other cancer patients she found acceptable solutions to her emotional and practical problems. She learned a new way to live and has a sense of positive well-being. She is now helping others “cope well” in their cancer diagnosis as they, too, face a life journey that is very unfamiliar than their yesterday.

Vickie Peyton, MSW, LCSW

Oncology Social Worker
KishHealth System Cancer Center, DeKalb, now a part of Northwestern Medicine


KishHealth System understands the physical and emotional toll cancer has on patients, caregivers, and family members. Learn about additional support services for cancer patients and their caregivers.

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