Taking Care of Your Mental Health

A cancer diagnosis rocks your entire world! No matter where you are in life, hearing that you have any cancer is an enormous hit. 

I was 26 years old in 2018 when I received my cancer diagnosis. I was working as a security officer and learning to cope with a new mental illness diagnosis from an unrelated event. I was struggling mentally, but I was also having some physical issues. I was noticing changes in my body. My periods got longer, the pain wouldn’t stop, and I went to the emergency room. The doctor told me I had an enlarged cervix during that visit and treated me with antibiotics. When I had my yearly pap test, they found a mass and wanted to do a biopsy. It was at that moment that I became full of anxiety. I was full of fear. All I heard was “cancer,” “hysterectomy,” and “no kids.” How would I manage? How would I tell my family? How would I FEEL? 


Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t handle my anxiety and depression with care. I tried to avoid conversations. It wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis that I realized how important mental health is as a part of our overall well-being! My father always told me that we could never make sound decisions without a clear mind. I used that as a basis for taking care of myself. I needed my mind clear to remember appointments, to remember medicines, to communicate with my team, the people around me, and so much more. I needed a clear mind to advocate for my care. 


After my cancer diagnosis, I had to deal with many different feelings. The top three were anger, sadness, and guilt. I couldn’t wrap my head around having cancer and the future of no children. I felt like I had to make decisions quickly, although I talked it through with my parents. The talks of infertility, menopause, and treatment weeks made my head spin. I almost didn’t go through with the chemo and radiation. At some points, I felt like less than a woman because I could no longer naturally reproduce and I no longer functioned the way I used to. I had a lack of libido, so sex wasn’t so appealing to me. These were some of the things I found it hard to talk about, so at times, I suffered silently. 


A support system is vital in finding mental/emotional stability before and after a cancer diagnosis. Most importantly, self-care is an excellent way to ensure that you find some ease in dealing with day-to-day routines. After realizing that my parents and fiancée would be there the whole way through, it eased my paranoia, and I felt empowered. I vowed to live life in the very moment and heed my tattoo to learn to accept the things I cannot change and have the courage to change the things I can, with wisdom to know the difference (Serenity prayer). 

Another way I coped before/after my diagnosis was meditation for at least 15 minutes each day. I affirmed that I would be healed, proclaimed that I would find peace, and declared that I would find a way to raise awareness and do what I can to teach people around me about how important it is to care for ourselves.

I saw a therapist at least twice a week a to talk and not see judgment. It was some of the best conversations I’ve ever had. My therapist helped me make sense of a lot of my emotions. She helped me see when I would misplace my anger and got me into journaling, which is another excellent way to cope and get things off your chest. 

Joining a support group also played a part in my mental health. I connected with other women who were feeling the same; they got it. I joined at least three or four different groups. They were all caring and positive. We shared our feelings, thoughts, and encouraged one another. Usually, I would not join groups like this, but they were safe spaces.  It made me feel good and at peace, but sometimes I would feel guilty that I complained so much, and as it seemed some women were enduring so much more than me. Now, I understand that I don’t have to write off my pain to validate someone else’s. Empathy is real!  I would advise you not to join or leave any support group that makes you feel bad or does not resonate with what you are looking for. 

Although cancer can make you feel exhausted, disabled, and empty, it can also make you feel empowered, tenacious, and beautiful. Remember that you are worth it. You shouldn’t be ashamed to seek mental health advice when your anxiety or stress feels too heavy. Some fun and creative ways to help relax would be arts, coloring books, and music. Talk it out or write it down, but it is never healthy to hold it in. Also, remember that it is OKAY NOT to BE OKAY! We often think that we must be strong for everyone around us, but we don’t have to pretend that we do not need a shoulder to lean on sometimes. 

Kyana is part of our Cervivor community and is a survivor of stage IIIB cervical cancer. Diagnosed at 26 years old, she found empowerment through Cervivor. Cervivor’s online groups taught her how to be more vocal about her care and spread awareness so that others are able to feel that same empowerment and advocate for themselves. Kyana shares her story in hopes that it will teach just one person about the importance of self-advocacy and preventative care, and to eliminate stigmas.

Surviving Cervical Cancer: Tips from Our Community

We develop tools to navigate through life’s rough waters but when you’re on the receiving end of a cervical cancer diagnosis, it’s like your toolbox is suddenly empty.

Something that almost everyone in our Cervivor community has said is that no one ever wants to be in a ‘cancer club’ but when you do find your community, things feel less scary. Now you can share coping and wellness tools, help others and find support from those who ‘get it’.

To provide that support, our community is sharing their tips for coping through a cancer diagnosis.

Keep a box of cards/letters/hospital bracelets/etc. This can be a vital way of processing through your emotions every now and again. You can reflect on the support you received and everything you survived. ~ Morgan N.

During treatment, sleep when you’re tired and eat when you’re hungry. Keeping your body well rested and nourished is a priority. ~Emily H.

I had to learn to say, “NO!” and to take time for myself to rest. Morning and evening meditation really helped me and art is my escape from it all. ~ Tasha B.

Yoga and meditation and eating clean! Meditation helped me focus on one thing. Eating clean gives me advantage on fighting back with nutrient vitamins to restore and help my body and digestive system. ~ Re’gina P.

I schedule time to rest. Be it meditation, reading, sitting in the sun, even aimlessly scrolling – just to be still for 30 mins or 1 hour during the day. I say I’m busy. Busy resting. ~ Samantha R.

Not only are our bodies going through so much with side effects, treatments and surgeries but cancer takes a toll on our spirit and mental health. Taking time to rest and reset, however that looks to you, is so important. Maybe this means reaching out and asking for help. Maybe it’s calling that friend who always knows how to make you laugh, or maybe it’s lying in bed and just crying. Creating space for ourselves is healing. Self-care comes in many forms and none of it is selfish.

Getting outside, even if it was just to walk to the mail box or sitting in my backyard. A little vitamin D always makes me feel better. ~ Carol L.

For me, it’s always been; yoga, meditation, walking/hiking, a religious sleep schedule, cooking/baking, time with friends, music, and quiet time reading. ~ Tracy C.

Listen to your body and resting whenever needed. This was very hard for me because I was so used to go, go, go but it’s so important to let your body rest and repair. ~ Gracie C.

There was overwhelming gratitude from survivors for their medical providers. From amazing Gynocological Oncology teams, Infusion and Radiation teams, to PA’s, RN’s and everyone who works hard to keep us alive to live. When you have a good oncology team, it’s a game changer.

Eating healthy food and sessions with my Oncology Physical Therapist to help with hip pain, regular varied movement, and journaling. ~ Christina B.

Finding my ‘safe spot’ to mentally escape for a bit. Learning to let others take care of me. Coloring and enjoying nature. I’m very tactical and the ears on my dog help soothe me.  ~ Karen N.

I learned to create boundaries from negative things/people. Using no, for my own wellbeing is essential. ~ Lorie W.

Another common thread we heard from you was the support you received from family and friends. Being surrounded and supported by people who put care into action means so much. Whether this comes in the form of prayer circles, meals being delivered or being that person holding our hand, all are great acts of loving kindness. And who doesn’t need more of that?

As cervical cancer patients, survivors and thrivers we have a special community. One that feels tight-knit because we know that through our voices we have the power to ignite a conversation and to help others. We know that our stories can have an impact on someone else’s life. That, through those stories, ending cervical cancer can be reached.

What are some tips you used to get through your diagnosis or life-changing event? How does wellness play a part in survival today?