Anxiety, Fear, and Depression

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What if the person with cancer acts as if nothing is wrong?

Be aware that your loved one may put up a false front, or put on a “happy face,” even if he or she doesn’t really feel that way. This may be their way of trying to protect the people they love, and possibly themselves, from painful feelings. And some people believe that a person with cancer can improve their outcome by being cheerful and happy all the time.

Studies of coping styles and survival or recurrence show that being cheerful has little to no effect on cancer. But some people with cancer feel guilty for being sad or fearful, and may try to act happy and “be positive” even when it’s painful to them. (See our document called Attitudes and Cancer for more on this.)

If you think that this is happening, gently tell the person that you are willing to listen to their feelings, no matter what they are. The message may be something like, “I care about you, and I’m here for you whether you are happy, afraid, angry, or sad.”

Last Medical Review: 09/20/2013
Last Revised: 09/20/2013