Resilience in the Face of Adversity

“I am a 17-year glioblastoma survivor. The key to my resilience is rooted in my choosing to be positive in the face of whatever glioblastoma throws at me. With this mindset, I strategize what tools and weapons I need to fight each battle and become stronger. There is always hope! I will never surrender!”

–  Cheryl Broyles, brain cancer survivor

Resilience is defined as the ability of an individual to thrive in the face of adversity.

A person demonstrating resilience is typically positive, motivated, supported by friends and family and has a sense of readiness, expectancy and spirituality.

Patients and caregivers need resilience to ‘hang in there’ when faced with the challenges of a life-threatening disease like brain cancer. They must grit it out with treatments that disrupt normal routines and take a physical and mental toll. Should a patient decide to enter a clinical trial, routines may be further disrupted. The patient may have to manage symptoms such as pain, weakness, fatigue and/or not thinking as clearly – all while managing the logistics involved with their treatment. Each of these changes require resilience.

From my experience, some individuals seem to have a well-developed sense of resilience from their first diagnosis. Others take more time to develop a balanced perspective and adjust to the ‘new normal’ that brain cancer brings. However, over time I have observed most people learn how to persevere through new challenges as they arise.

A review article discussing resilience showed that characteristics of this trait may be present, but need to be encouraged at the beginning of the diagnosis, through symptom changes and potential tumor recurrence.¹ Providing encouragement is an important responsibility for caregivers, family and friends. Below are three ways patients and caregivers can help improve their resilience and thrive even during an extremely difficult time.

 • Seek avenues of social support. Resources can be found through in-person or on-line support groups. Some people find spiritual and mindfulness groups boost their ability to cope. Sometimes social support is found from people and situations where it is least expected!

• Focus on a positive attitude. Patients and families need to remind themselves of their inner strength. While it can be daunting at times, I have interacted with many brain cancer doctors who say patients with a positive attitude tend to have better outcomes.

• Work closely with your healthcare team. Even in the face of adversity, the actions of health care professionals provide strength and help build resilience. Work closely with your doctor and care team to build an optimistic and constructive environment.

Having an illness like brain cancer creates challenges unlike any other disease. Resilience is an important trait to nurture that can help you fight through a brain cancer diagnosis and beyond.

¹ Molina, YM, et al., Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2014, 18(1):93-101.