You are here: Home Survivorship Guide For Ellen
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

My Survivorship A to Z Guide

The Basics

Next » « Previous


Note: This is a sample Survivorship A to Z Guide for a fictitious person we call Ellen. She is just diagnosed with Breast Cancer. To view a summary of her answers which led to this Guide, click here.

To get your own free, computer-generated A to Z Guide, click here.

Get the best medical care you can. You can help maximize effectiveness with a healthy regimen.

Good medical care is critical after a diagnosis.  To get the best care, it helps to understand the current medical system and how to navigate through it. 

In addition, you can help by taking the following five steps which are briefly outlined here. If taking any of these steps is a substantial change to your routine, speak with your doctor or other medical provider for an okay and specific guidance. 

Also keep in mind that the key is to do your best. Striving for 100% perfection adds unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation.

  • Step 1: Eat a healthy balanced diet.    
    • It may help to think of each meal as an investment in your health. 
    • Healthy food does not have to be more expensive than junk food. 
    • You do not need to be super human and eat a healthy diet 100% of the time. The occasional comfort food is okay.. 
  • Step 2: Exercise. You do not need to join a gym or hire a trainer to get exercise.
  • Step 3: Get rest.
  • Step 4: Do what you can to reduce stress and to deal with the emotional swings that usually accompany a serious health condition. Spirituality, a belief in a higher power, can provide a major source of support and comfort. There are countless paths to spirituality. The right path is the one that works for you -- whether it's through religion, new age thinking or your individual belief. 
  • Step 5: Consider using complementary therapies such as massage..

NOTE: It is helpful to think of the people in your personal life as part of a team to support your needs in addition to the professionals. It is up to you whether you want to be the leader of the team or turn the leadership over to someone else. 

Understand that your world has a new normal. [Tell me more]

As a person who has recently been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, it may be the last thing you want to hear, but just about every aspect of your life will be affected one way or another. Once your world settles down, it will be to a new normal.

New normal is here to stay.

Be pro-active including being the decision maker and team leader [Tell me more]


Being pro-active is good for your health. Being pro-active also helps people feel more in control.

Being pro-active is a mental attitude. It shows up in just about all areas of your life. If you have difficulty being pro-active and advocating for yourself, it helps some people to think of themselves as a child for whom they would be more active.


Part of being pro-active is understanding that it is you rather than a medical professional who is the ultimate decider when it comes to which treatments to take, when to take them, and when to stop them.

Good decision making starts with information.  You can get information from professionals and/or by reading information prepared by unbiased sources, particularly people who have been through or lived with a serious health condition such as yours. It is always advisable to check new information about your health condition or treatment with your doctor or other health care partners before acting on it. 

NOTE: If you prefer to turn over decision making in particular areas to a family member of friend or to a medical professional, that is a valid choice. You can still be pro-active in the other areas - and take back the decision making power whenever you think it is in your best interest.

Your team

Your friends, family and health care providers as part of your team. For information, see Day To Day Living.

Expect the best as a person with a health condition. [Tell me more]

Live one day at a time with hope.

  • There is no such thing as false hope.
  • Do not fixate on statistics. Statistics only give an idea of what may happen. Statistics are about what happened in the past to a large number of people. Statistics do not take into account continuing medical advances. Bottom line, no one can predict what will happen to any individual.
  • To expect the best may be a change in habit for you. If so, it may take time to change. It's worth the effort to try -- and to keep trying.

Try to look at the glass as half full.

Looking at the glass this way, or (as some people say) looking for the silver lining, doesn't change the reality of life -- but it does make it easier.

Consider the following thoughts which have been helpful to other people and may be helpful to you:

  • If you have found a new meaning in life that wasn't there before, take time each day to focus on it. 
  • The chinese symbol for "crisis" is "opportunity."
  • Spend time and energy on the people you care about, and that care about you. Let them know you care about them -- not just once a year on their birthday, but often. It may not be your style, but maybe it's time for a new style. It frees them to respond in kind -- and doesn't that feel good?
  • If there are old friends that you've had a falling out with and are waiting for the right time to patch things up -- now's the time.
  • Let go of the things that don't matter any more.
  • Some people refer to their diagnosis as a "gift." They say that it is as if they were sleep-walking until a diagnosis woke them up to the joy and wonder of each moment of being on the planet.

You are not the condition. 

  • Keep in mind that you are a person with a health condition. The condition does not have to define you.
  • Live your life with a health condition, rather than spend time "dying" of it. Some experts even say that this kind of attitude extends life. Even if it doesn't, it makes each day more fulfilling and richer.

To Learn More

Prepare For "What If?" [Tell me more]

  • Balance optimism with the reality of day-to-day living.
  • Keep in mind that the medical world is your key to survival.
  • The keys to accessing the medical world and to thriving are information, your economic world, and your support team. 
  • Get the legal ends tied up. For example, everyone should consider having an advance directive such as a Health Care Power Of Attorney which appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to speak for yourself. Everyone should also have a valid, challenge-proof, will