By Shelley Nolden, GRYT Chairwoman

Navigating life after a diagnosis seems impossible. Especially when you’re new and fresh out of the gate. Below you’ll find things that I found to be helpful after I was diagnosed with APL that were passed on to me. They’re small in the scheme of things but can make a big difference in your day to day. You’ll get through this. Keep your chin up. You are not alone.

Choose to be happy. When you fight for your life, you reflect on what you’re fighting for. The biggest prize is being there for your family. But life’s small pleasures are spoils of the war as well. Cancer survivors appreciate each day, instead of always thinking about tomorrow. They are spontaneous and choose to be happy.

Have a positive mindset. The common theme of the advice I’ve received is mindset, and how much of a difference it can make. Mindset, both in terms of staying positive during the treatment process and any potential setbacks, as well as a general outlook on life.

Take one step at a time. My grandma, who battled kidney cancer that spread to her lungs, gave me an excellent piece of practical advice: take the disclaimers that come with the drug packages with a grain of salt. The drug companies list every possible side effect, and there’s no reason to let the mind go there. If you feel pain, deal with it then, not before. In general, she ignored the negatives that come with cancer as best she could. Her positive attitude through it was amazing. She made a great cancer buddy for me.

Laugh. A woman my age, who is in her second year of breast cancer treatments, told me a story about a mosquito. It landed on her arm shortly after she’d received a dose of a very intense chemo drug. Instead of the mosquito flying away in victory with its meal of blood, it shriveled up and died. Now that’s some powerful sh*t. In her words:

“It was so awful and hilarious at the same time, and it reminded me just how strong we can be.”

Find a community. Cancer is so isolating. Finding others who get it can help you when you feel like you’re hitting rock bottom. Depression after cancer is common, so if you’re unsure about where to turn, hearing others have been there can be comforting. It can also be helpful to hear from them what common things work and what doesn’t!

Have some more survivorship tricks of the trade? Email us at and we’ll add them to this list!

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