Changing your Negative Self-Talk

Hearing you or your partner has cancer can trigger lots of thoughts that keep popping into your head. Sometimes these thoughts can be overly negative and unrealistic. This feature presents some common negative thoughts that people dealing with cancer often express.

Click on the thought bubble that best reflects the thoughts that have been bothering you to reveal some helpful tips.

This cancer is going to ruin everything

There are, unfortunately, many things that cancer can get in the way of – you might have been planning to take a holiday when you now need to stay home for treatment, or you might have been preparing to make a job change when now, you need the security of your current job. 

However, despite all of the difficulties, cancer doesn’t have to ruin everything. There will be times when you can live your ‘normal’ life, when you can share laughs and good times with those close to you. Try the following tips: 

  • Spend time doing activities you enjoy,
  • Connect with others where possible,
  • Have something to look forward to, in your short-term future, 
  • Take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the positive things that happen in your life each day. 

Use the Booklets and Video tab to find the Dealing With Stress and Worry booklet for more ideas.


I have no control over this cancer

A cancer diagnosis and treatment can make you feel like things are spiraling out of control and this can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless. 

The key is to try to find some sense of control. This might be achieved by: 

  • Learning about your diagnosis and treatment options,
  • Taking a more active role in appointments to make sure you get the information you need,
  • Being actively involved in making your treatment decision,
  • Breaking your problems down into small, solvable parts, and tackling them one at a time,
  • Seeking some professional help – talking to your Doctor, Social Worker, Oncology Nurse, Psychologist or Counsellor.

The Getting What You Need From Your Health Care Team, Making Your Treatment Decision, and Dealing With Stress and Worries booklets can give you some more ideas. Use the Booklets and Video tab above to find them. 


Why me?

This is often one of the first questions people ask. Some people try to look for something they have done wrong to cause it; essentially blaming themselves for the cancer. But the truth is that doctors don’t know for sure what causes cancer. 

Look at your thoughts closely – what reasons are you coming up with to explain your situation? Do you think you are being punished? Do you think that if you had done something differently you could have avoided it?  These types of thoughts are unproductive and overly negative. 

Challenge these thoughts using the process outlined in the Dealing With Stress and Worry booklet (use the Booklets and Videos tab to find this booklet). Ask yourself if it's realistic that the cancer is a punishment or that it's somehow your fault. If you're not sure whether it's realistic, talk it over with a health care professional. Ultimately, try to make looking after yourself and your partner your main focus. 


I can’t tell my partner how I'm really feeling

Many people feel they can’t tell their partner their true feelings, in case it makes their partner upset. But chances are, your partner knows there is something wrong and they are worrying about you.

It may help you to think through what you want to tell your partner, or write it down so the issue is clear to you. Then, try to see if you can find a suitable time and place for telling your partner how you are feeling.

When you start the conversation, try using statements that start with ‘I’ such as “I feel”, “I think”, talk in small chucks so as not to overwhelm your partner, and tolerate silence to give them a chance to work through what you have just said.

Use the Booklets and Videos tab to find the Supporting Each Other booklet for some further ideas. 


I have to deal with this on my own

For some people, dealing with cancer can be very isolating. Even if you have people you can talk to, some people feel that others don’t really understand what they are going through. Or they don’t want to ‘put others out’ by asking for help. 

You do not, however, have to go through this alone. Take note of those family members and friends who offer their help and support. Consider joining a support group in your local area or contact the Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20) to ask about their peer support service.

Also remember that just spending time with others can help you feel connected. Try to exercise with a friend regularly, go to the movies with your partner, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.  

Use the Booklets and Videos tab to find the Getting the Support You Need and Supporting Each Other booklets for more strategies to address your sense of isolation. 


I just can’t cope with this

Cancer can be very overwhelming, so there are bound to be times when you feel like you just can’t cope. But to think that you’ll never be able to cope, or that you can’t cope with any aspect of cancer, may be unnecessarily negative. 

Firstly, you don’t have to go through it on your own – even if you don’t have a support network of family and friends, there are plenty of support services out there, such as the Cancer Council Helpline (phone 13 11 20). Relaxation exercises can help you achieve calm - calmer minds and bodies cope much better. Plus, you can try to make your days as pleasant as possible, by focussing on doing what you enjoy, despite the challenging times you face. 

Use the Booklets and Vidoes tab to find the Dealing With Stress and Worry booklet for further ideas.


Nothing is going to help

It’s entirely understandable that you might feel pessimistic, however, it is unrealistic to think that nothing is going to help. 

Want help with……?

Physical care – even if you have chosen your treatment path, you may still have questions and concerns that arise along the way. You may feel that you need to ask more questions of your health care team, seek referrals to support staff and gather more information about dealing with side effects. See the Getting What You Need From Your Health Care Team and Getting on Top of Symptoms booklets in the tab above for further advice.

Coping financially – there are financial assistance schemes that you might be eligible for, as well as financial counsellors, to help you find workable solutions to juggling financial burdens. See the Getting the Support You Need booklet for further information.     

The Getting the Support You Need booklet contains more examples and more solutions that you might find helpful.


We’ll never get our life back to the way it is meant to be

This thought is very common and reflects the grieving process that many people go through when they contemplate the changes cancer has brought. Indeed, you may never get your life back to how it was. But, does this mean that it can’t be satisfying? 

People who’ve faced cancer often talk about their ‘new normal’ - their new way of being, day-to-day.  This ‘new normal’ doesn’t need to be defined as being good or bad - chances are it will be a bit of both, just like life is. It’s simply new and different, and will take some adjusting to. This means facing and mourning the loss of things you won’t be able to have or do again, savouring those important things that you can keep or do again, and perhaps even embracing new things in your life. 

Use the Booklets and Videos tab to find the Dealing With Stress and Worry and Supporting Each Other booklets for ideas about enhancing your life.


I have to put on a brave face, but I don't feel optimistic

Putting on a brave face makes other people feel better, but if it’s not how you feel, it can stop you from expressing what you are really experiencing. Making other people feel better is not your responsibility. Trying to pretend you aren't having negative thoughts or feelings about cancer is very energy-consuming and the negative thoughts don't tend to disappear.

Try telling people how you are really feeling. Consider the timing of your conversation and what you want to say. When you start the conversation, try using statements that start with ‘I’ such as “I feel”, “I think”.

If you feel that other people would find it hard to deal with your true thoughts and emotions, let them know that you don’t want to talk about the cancer for a while, and connect with them in other ways, such as doing enjoyable things, talking about other things that you have in common, or making plans for upcoming events. 

Use the Booklets and Videos tab to find the Supporting Each Other booklet for more ideas.