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A diagnosis of metastatic small-cell lung cancer can be overwhelming. You will most likely feel many emotions that may include sadness, fear, and even anger.

It’s important to realize that all these emotions are normal. You may be told by family and friends to “stay positive,” but sometimes that can be hard. If you put pressure on yourself to always look at the bright side, you may actually end up with feelings of guilt that you can’t do it all the time. But there are ways to reset your feelings and help yourself feel better.

How to Cope Better

There are things you can do to stay positive, even with a metastatic small-cell lung cancer diagnosis. You can:

Talk about your feelings. It may be helpful to join a support group or see a therapist. They can help you work through emotions so you feel more optimistic. This leads to a better quality of life.

Even if you are not ready to talk, consider a support group. Research shows they help lower tension and anxiety and reduce your risk of depression. As a result, you’ll feel better and enjoy life more.

If you really don’t feel comfortable discussing your cancer with others, consider jotting down your thoughts and emotions in a journal instead.

Practice relaxation techniques. Mindfulness practices such as guided imagery won’t stop cancer growth, but they can help relieve some of the anxiety and depression linked to the diagnosis. 

Try to take charge. You may feel like your life is out of control when you are diagnosed with metastatic small-cell lung cancer. You may resent the fact that your daily routine is disrupted and that you may not be able to do all the things you used to enjoy. But it will help you feel more in control of the situation to take charge where you can. There are several ways you can do this:

  • Educate yourself about your cancer. The more you know, the more in control you’ll feel. Don’t be afraid to ask your medical specialists questions and pipe up when you don’t understand the answers. You’ll feel better when you learn all the facts and do what you can to be an active participant in your care. Research suggests that people who are well-informed about their cancer are more likely to follow their treatment plans and recover more quickly than those who don’t.
  • Stay busy. If you engage in hobbies that make you feel good, like reading, listening to music, or cooking, you’ll spend less time dwelling on your cancer diagnosis.
  • Set a daily schedule. You may feel better if your life is put into some semblance of order. You can’t control your cancer, but you can make doctor appointments and set times to eat healthy meals and exercise.

Find gratitude where you can. View your cancer as a “wake-up call” to enjoy the little things in life. Visit a local place that you’ve never been to before. Finish a crafting project that you put aside. Set up specific times to catch up with family or friends several days a week. If that seems too hard, then pay attention to the small activities you do every day that you enjoy. It can be as simple as savoring your morning coffee, walking in your garden, or chatting on the phone with a trusted friend. These little activities often carry big meaning.

Explore your spirituality. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to church or pray. Spirituality means different things to different people. You can find spirituality in everything from a nature walk to uplifting music to snuggling with your dog. It may help you if you are struggling to understand why you have cancer or wondering about your life’s purpose and how cancer affects it.

Stay active. Whether it’s aerobic exercise such as swimming or walking, stretching, yoga, or even chair exercises, being active may help your self-image and help alleviate fatigue.

How to Talk to Others About Your Cancer

It’s normal to feel lonely or distant from people at times after a metastatic cancer diagnosis. Your friends may not know what to do or say. It may seem like no one understands what you are going through. Here are some ways to make it easier:

Set the terms. Oftentimes, other people -- even loved ones -- don’t know what to say or how to act around you. Ask them what they think or how they feel. This may be a springboard to a more natural conversation.

Pick the right time. Even if you’re ready to talk about your cancer to family and friends, they may not be. If they are, they may:

  • Bring up the subject of lung cancer
  • Act nervous or make silly jokes
  • Spend more time with you

Don’t talk if you don’t want to. It’s fine to decide that you just need to be alone now and then. You’ll feel better if you allow yourself to give in to your emotions sometimes.

Ask for help if you need it. Family and friends may call just to see how you are or ask if there’s anything they can do. Be honest. Don’t be afraid to ask them to go grocery shopping or drive you to an appointment. You can also make a list of things you need and share it with others, so that they can pick something to do.

A diagnosis of metastatic small-cell lung cancer can be challenging, but with the right tools, you can stay positive and maintain your quality of life.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: moodboard / Getty Images


American Cancer Society: “Impact of Attitudes and Feelings on Cancer.”

National Cancer Institute: “Feelings and Cancer,” “Taking Time: Support for People with Cancer.”

Psycho-Oncology: “Greater mindfulness associated with lower pain, fatigue, and psychological distress in women with metastatic breast cancer.”