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Be a Cancer "Thriver," Not Just a Cancer "Survivor"

16 Aug 2014 | Posted Under Cancer

Be More Than a Cancer Survivor…Be a Cancer Thriver!


by Rita Milios, LCSW, The Mind Mentor


            Having faced off against a life-threatening illness and survived is certainly an accomplishment. So it is understandable that “cancer survivor” is a label that is cherished by many who have successfully completed this kind of treatment. Yet, while I am happy to be a participant in this lucky group, I’ve never felt comfortable identifying myself by the designation “cancer survivor.” Even though the purpose of this label is to allude to a positive outcome, the “survivor” part–to me–just feels too limiting. Yes, it is great to survive… but is that enough? Certainly not for me! In my practice as a psychotherapist, I’ve always told my clients, “I am not a therapist who considers reduction of symptoms good enough. I go for the whole enchilada­–complete personal and spiritual transformation!” So if I don’t settle with my clients’ goals, why should I settle for mine?

            I don’t. That is why I adopted the term “cancer thriver” to replace “cancer survivor” when I speak of my post-treatment identity. But, to put this into perspective, I did not “thrive” immediately. In fact, it was a two and a half year process to move from Okay, I really am glad to be alive and have the prospect of seeing my grandchildren grow up after all. But will I ever return to my psychotherapy practice? Or ever write another book, or even a few articles? Do I have any ambition left in me? …to… Now I’m back!...No not just back, but back and feeling even more engaged and motivated than ever before!

            I’ll be honest. I was depressed during my treatment and for probably a good year after. But it wasn’t an emotional depression. Being a therapist, I knew what to look for and after wracking my brain for hours each day looking for an emotional cause for my life is just not that interesting…I can take it or leave it feeling. I finally came to the conclusion that my physical body had been so depleted that there was simply no energy left for the mental, emotional or spiritual aspects of my personality to draw from. So life had a flat, grey feeling tone for a long time.  

  Fortunately, as I gained my physical strength back, my zest for life slowly returned as well.  (At the time, I was unaware of some “thriver” strategies that could have gotten me to that status much faster!) Still, now, three years out from my initial diagnosis and almost two years post-treatment (chemo, radiation, double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery), I am doing more than I was even before treatment. And I feel a renewed purpose and meaning in my life. I have projects to complete, ideas to share and people to interact with. Physically, as well as emotionally and mentally, I feel the best I have felt in much of my adult life.

So, as I reviewed my “bucket list,” I decided that I did have one more book in me, and I have recently completed that project. Now, with that behind me, I am finding myself drawn to the idea of sharing the “Cancer Thriver” mindset. I know that for some people, just having an opportunity to go on living and to participate in daily life as they did prior to their diagnosis is enough. But there are others, like me, who may feel an inner pull toward discovering the “meaning” of their journey. They may feel a desire to live with more intention and purpose, now that they have been given “a second chance.” At the very least, there may be a desire to reflect on life and renew or rearrange priorities. For people who share this perspective, I thought it would be great if they could have an opportunity to navigate this self-reflective and self-transformative process with others who share a similar path and philosophy. To this end, I am starting a Cancer Thrivers Support Group.


The purpose of the Cancer Thrivers Support Group is to offer a safe place to meet with others who are now post-treatment, and to receive support, education and inspiration to facilitate moving from merely “surviving” the illness to “thriving” in life again. We will discuss physical aspects (roles of nutrition and exercise), mental aspects (having a positive mindset), emotional aspects (dealing with fears of possible future illness; other emotional concerns), and spiritual aspects (meaning and purpose in life and how this affects continued health and well-being). I will also have lots of handouts to offer for take-home reading and education. (I hope that this opportunity will not only help you move to “thriver” status, but will help you get there faster than I did!)

If you or someone you know would like to take part in the Cancer Thrivers Support Group, please email me at Or if you can’t (or prefer not to) email, call 727-860-5675 to let me know that you want to be notified when the first meeting is held. Meeting place will be determined later, depending on the number of people who respond­. (Location will be either at my office, Inner Peace Professional Counseling, 12000 U.S. Hwy. 19, in Hudson, or at a larger venue a little further south.) If you would like to receive a Free Tip Sheet: How to Find Meaning and Purpose in Life After Cancer, email me at, with “Cancer–Meaning and Purpose Post Tx.” in the subject line.


Rita Milios, LCSW, The Mind Mentor, is a licensed psychotherapist, author and speaker. She has published numerous books and articles on mind/body wellness, including De-Mystifying Motivation, Three Easy Ways to Meditate, Heart Health: What’s Love Got to Do with It?, How Does Visualization Work? and The Power of Purpose. She can be reached at:

Read more about Rita’s psychotherapy practice at:,CHt_Hudson_Florida

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