Cancer is Trauma by Nancy Novack

Cancer is Trauma for the person grappling with living and dying, for the kids, for the partners, for the community of friends and family.

In my experiences as a woman diagnosed 13 years ago with stage 4 ovarian cancer, a clinical psychologist, and the founder of Nancy’s List and Nancy’s Club, I have had the privilege of many conversations with many many people living with cancer … children, teens, adults, and their loved ones.

When I was diagnosed, I had the immensely good fortune to be treated by an especially wise oncologist who understood the profound emotional roller-coaster in front of me. He advised me to seek the support of a psychologist, preferably one who had survived a cancer diagnosis and had endured the torment and ambiguities and deep questioning. I know that my psychotherapy experience enhanced my healing in extraordinary ways.

I listen to many fellow travelers. They share feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. They worry about being honest with their children and not knowing what to say to them, about telling their employers and likely losing their jobs, about the potential for bankruptcy and foreclosure, about the loss of insurance or the inability to pay for all their medications. They suffer isolation, fear, distrust, anger, and profound sadness.

Many simply need to talk, as we all do, and to have someone generously listen. Many question “Why me?” especially the vegans who do yoga every day.

A few demonstrate an abundance of courage and resilience, but many are in constant fear … all the while, they pray for strength and courage and resilience and life.

I vow to make a difference for people living with cancer, those who love and care for them, and for the children, those who have a cancer diagnosis or love someone who has. I am grateful for the generosity and inspiration of my oncologist, the open hearts of my loved ones who brought meaning to my journey, to the simple and profound wish and mission:


I have been blessed by the generosity of strangers. I imagine that many who have walked in my shoes feel the same. We hold hands and hearts of those we meet along the way.

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