7 Psycho-Social Behavioral Qualities of Successful Cancer Patients

I think anyone who has faced a cancer diagnosis will tell you that cancer is more than just a physical battle—it’s a journey that tests your resilience, emotional strength, and adaptability.

For many, the mental struggle can be as great as the physical struggle. While medical treatments play a crucial role in combating this disease, the psycho-social behavioral qualities of patients can significantly influence their journey through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. 

My teacher, Susan Silberstein, PhD, taught me that cancer patients who are successful discover the importance of dealing with the mental aspects of their recovery. They exhibit a unique set of traits and behaviors that contribute to their resilience and ability to cope with the challenges they face.

In this article I am going to share with you the 7 psycho-social behavioral qualities of successful cancer patients that she taught me.  These are behaviors she had observed during her 30-plus years of counseling cancer patients. 

1. Acceptance Of Diagnosis But Rejection of Prognosis

They accept they have cancer but refuse to give up hope.  They refuse to believe the limiting prognosis they received from their doctor.  They believe they can heal. They believe they will find a way. They believe they can have a long and high-quality life. 

2. Participation. Initiative. Commitment.

They are active in choosing the treatment plan that they want and that they feel is best for them.  They listen to their inner physician, their intuition.  This may involve disagreeing with their doctors and their family. But they do it anyway when they feel a strong initiative to go a certain direction.  Once they have decided on what they want to do, they commit to it and then persevere on that course. 

3. Introspection

Successful patients use their illness for personal learning and growth. They use it to resolve previous losses in their lives and practice self-actualization.    Interestingly, the Chinese symbol for crisis is an image with one side showing danger and the other, opportunity.  Dr. Silberstein would say, “cancer is a dangerous opportunity for growth.” 

4. Transformation In Interpersonal Relationships

Making oneself a priority during this time is important.  Successful patients will reconcile past conflicts even with those who have moved on, and they will purge toxic relationships from their lives. 

5. Lifestyle Changes

They embrace new patterns of diet, exercise, work, and play.  These lifestyle changes can sometimes include quitting a job and changing their living arrangements.

6. Expression Of Emotions

Expressing emotions includes both positive and negative emotions. Even emotions that may be repressed.  Sometimes cancer is caused by not by what you eat, but what is eating you. 

7. Life Purpose

Successful patients have a sense of self-worth, and they seek to find their life purpose or passion.  This means clarifying their goals and finding meaning in their lives.  They find the passion that beats to the rhythm of their own heart. 

“When you’re thick in the process of discovering your passion, remind yourself that each person’s journey is unique. Don’t look to your best friend or colleague to find what moves your spirit and what you choose to fight for.  Look inside yourself.  You are one of one. We are not created to be replicas of anyone else.”  Tim Tebow


From resilience and emotional intelligence to proactive coping strategies, successful cancer patients exhibit remarkable qualities that empower them to navigate the challenges they face with grace and determination.  

If you know someone struggling with a cancer diagnosis, share this article with them. A cancer diagnosis presents a complex journey for a cancer patient and their family that extends beyond just medical treatments. In addition to physical challenges, patients and their families often grapple with the emotional, psychological, and lifestyle changes they need to make. As a holistic cancer coach, I can help.  

As a holistic cancer coach, I serve as a supportive guide to cancer patients, offering a personalized plan and strategies to address their multifaceted needs. Unlike traditional medical professionals who primarily focus on the physical aspects of treatment, a holistic cancer coach takes into account the patient’s emotional well-being, lifestyle choices, and overall quality of life. 


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Picture of Yetta Blair, CFNC, CHCC

Yetta Blair, CFNC, CHCC

Yetta is a certified functional nutrition practitioner, holistic cancer coach and speaker. She studied whole-food, plant-based nutrition with T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. She is a food driven analyst and works with clients to help them use nutrition principles to solve the root causes of their health symptoms. She knows that functional nutrition is the answer to our current healthcare crisis, both for individuals and for society at large, and wants to inform as many people as she can of the power of food to heal. Her promise to clients - if you eat better, you will feel better.