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Letting Go & Hanging On

“Letting go” was the topic of a wonderful and lively @bcsmchat. If you’d like to read the chat transcript in its entirety, click here. While participating in the chat, I found myself struggling a bit with what to say, or rather with how I felt about the topic. Mostly I was, and still am, unsure of what letting go means when talking about cancer. I do know cancer brings a lot of letting go and hanging on.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m supposed to be doing a better job of letting go. I feel as if I’m supposed to be doing a better job of moving on. Isn’t this what’s really meant by letting go?

Maybe, maybe not. It’s more complicated than that.

Letting go is something we all do throughout our lives. We let go of childhood and more carefree days. We let go of careers. We even let go of certain people and sometimes dreams we have too. And anyone who’s parented knows a whole lot about letting go. The whole idea of parenting is to help your children grow up so you can, well, let them go. And on a side note, Dear Hubby and I recently launched number three out of the nest. Talk about major letting go.

Yes, letting go is part of life.

And then there’s cancer.

How do you let go of cancer?

Can you ever really let go?

I don’t think so. But that’s a post for another day.

With cancer, there’s a lot of letting go involved and a lot of hanging on as well.

Cancer forces you to hang on. I don’t mean to cancer, of course, but to yourself.

A cancer diagnosis impacts just about every single aspect of your life, or at least this has been the case for me; so I have had to do a lot of letting go. I have also had to do a lot of hanging on.

Quite literally, I had to let go of outer and inner parts of my body, and not just any parts, but the very parts that represent femaleness.

So yes, I had to let go. After this letting go, I still work hard every day to hang on to the woman I know I still am, but sometimes struggle to see.

I let go and I hang on.

I never expected to not be a healthy person, much less be one with cancer. Letting go of the idea of myself as a strong and healthy person has not been easy. Accepting my new far more imperfect and more fragile physical and emotional self is a challenge every day. I know I’m still me, but yet I also know I’m not.

I let go and I hang on.

I no longer can physically do things I could do before cancer and this really pisses me off sometimes. I hang onto and try to build upon strengths of various sorts I still have.

I let go and I hang on.

Sometimes, I still don’t recognize the person who looks back at me in the mirror these days. (Come to think of it, it might be time soon for a little rant about that). She looks nothing like the person she looked like before cancer, and this is not just because she’s older.

I let go and I hang on.

I no longer stand in front of a classroom filled with elementary-age children on a regular basis, but I will always consider myself to be an educator and someone who cares deeply about children, and not just my own.

I let go and I hang on.

I could go on, but you get my drift.

I think of my friends with metastatic disease who must let go of so much more than I have had to.

They let go. And they hang on, many quite literally, for life every single day.

They let go. They hang on.

I guess we all do.

The tweet chat ended by positioning a certain ‘a’ word into the conversation, as a finale so to speak. It was not intended to be a question, nor a statement necessarily, just a conversation catalyst.

What ‘a’ word you might be wondering?


Acceptance is a really ‘big’ word, especially when coupled with cancer, and perhaps best left for another day to write about as well…

So yes, since my cancer diagnosis there has been a lot of letting go and a lot of hanging on, too, which really means there’s been a lot of adapting. There’s been a lot of evolving.

Cancer or no cancer, each of us lets go and each of us hangs on in her own way and according to her own timetable.

And this is as it should be.

What’s something cancer has forced you to let go of?

What’s something you hang onto?

If applicable, do you see yourself ever “letting go” of cancer, or is this even possible for you?

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Cancer brings a lot of letting go & hanging on. #breastcancer #mastectomy #womenshealth #cancersucks #survivor
Watching the tide ebb and flow (when I get the chance) reminds me of letting go and hanging on…

Linda C Boberg

Wednesday 25th of May 2022

For me, it's all about figuring it out. When you lose something because of cancer - like an ability - you have to figure out how to make it work. For instance, I wear a lymphedema sleeve and it makes it hard to cook, clean, do anything because it is my dominant hand. So, I try to do things during the few hours without the sleeve. It's hard. And it's not my only trial.


Friday 27th of May 2022

Linda, Agree. There's a lot of adapting and adjusting that cancer forces us to do, that's for sure. Thank you for sharing about one of your challenges and how you try to manage it.

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

Thank you for your post Nancy, in God we Trust


Sunday 31st of May 2015

It's hard to accept areas where cancer compromised quality and enjoyment of life. Maybe I delude myself, but I keep thinking it's got to get better. Because it slowly has. Very slowly...


Monday 1st of June 2015

Eileen, I'm glad things are getting better, even if it's happening slowly. And yes, it's hard to accept that QOL will never be quite what it once was. Thank you for sharing.

Jenny Bender

Sunday 31st of May 2015

Thank you for your post, Nancy. I'm in the middle of breast cancer treatment and learning to let go has been a major theme for me since my diagnosis--learning to let go of the good as well as the not-so-good. Every day is a practice in letting go for me: letting go of thoughts like, "When I'm through this, what if my cancer comes back?" Letting go of the feeling that I'm missing out on this and that by being cooped up post chemo, post surgery. Letting go of the idea that life is supposed to go a certain way, that I can control things--like not getting breast cancer at 39.


Monday 1st of June 2015

Jenny, You mentioned one of the major letting go challenges, well for me anyway, the one about letting go of the idea that your life was supposed to go a certain way. I agree with you, that's a tough one. It's hard to accept that cancer is now part of who you are. And we do lose a sense of control that we never actually had, but... well you know. Every day we do have to practice. You're so right about that too. Thank you for reading and for sharing your insights.


Friday 29th of May 2015

Wonderful post Nancy. I think I like Beth's word evolve. My future will always have the fact that cancer is in my past.


Friday 29th of May 2015

Mae, Thank you and yes, mine will too.

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