Can Something Good Come From This?

“What I learned was that cancer can take away a lot of things, but that it could also help me to realize many things. Cancer gave me focus and determination—to live what life was given to me to the fullest. It helped to make me deeper and wider and more impassioned than those who have not had to experience the harsher sides of life. I learned that the unexpected gift of cancer is an intense appreciation for life. I found compassion for others where there had been none before, I found strength I didn’t know I had.” – Amy, childhood cancer survivor

No one would volunteer to have cancer. Even though it may seem impossible to imagine at the beginning, most people find the strength to deal with cancer when they or a member of their family become ill. Most people cope with the challenges cancer brings one day at a time and come out okay in the end. Overall, most children’s cancer survivors have a good quality of life and sense of well-being. Also, after getting through such a challenging experience, many people look back on it and feel that they underwent some positive personal changes as a result of having cancer.

It is easy to think of the negative things that come with cancer: having to be in the hospital, missing out on school and social activities with friends, feeling too sick or tired to enjoy life, worrying about the future. During treatment, the time is often spent managing these negative or unpleasant things. After treatment, looking back on these experiences can challenge the way children, teens, and their families think about themselves and their world. Many people begin to see positive changes in themselves as a result of surviving the cancer experience. They feel stronger. Parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends may also experience positive changes as a result of someone close to them having cancer. For example, some people say the cancer experience helped them focus on what really matters in life. They say they appreciate life more, have deeper personal relationships with family and friends, and find a stronger sense of spirituality. Others report increased confidence in their ability to handle difficult situations, and more certainty about their priorities; they feel more confident and have new interests and goals. Some people experience a desire to “give back” to others and work to help current and future cancer patients. These people might get involved in organizations like CureSearch that provide resources to cancer patients and focus on finding a cure for all children’s cancers.

This idea of finding positives from a generally negative experience has been called “benefit-finding” or “post-traumatic growth.” Benefit-finding means looking for the positives in the experience, and posttraumatic growth means positive changes in the way you think and feel due to experiencing the trauma of a serious illness. People may call it different things, but basically it means you are able to see something positive come from the often scary and negative experience of having cancer or being close with someone who has had cancer.