Coping through the emotional impact of cancer treatment and beyond

Dartmouth Cancer Center presents Thriving Thursdays – Wellness Beyond Cancer

Navigating the cancer experience can feel like riding a roller coaster.

Sivan Rotenberg, PhD

At Dartmouth Cancer Center, we define survivorship as beginning at diagnosis and continuing through and beyond cancer. We consider family members to be survivors as well.

Throughout the month of June, Dartmouth Cancer Center, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, dedicated a series of Thriving Thursday weekly health and wellness webinars to survivorship topics. Sivan Rotenberg, PhD, joined as the first guest speaker to talk about coping through the emotional impact of cancer treatment and beyond.

Rotenberg is a clinical health psychologist at Dartmouth Cancer Center, having worked in oncology for more than 10 years. She is passionate about helping patients and their care partners walk through the cancer journey.

“Navigating the cancer experience can feel like riding a roller coaster,” says Rotenberg. “Depending on where you are in your journey, and who you are as a person, different skills can be helpful as we’re going through these ups and downs and thinking about transitioning from surviving to thriving.”

In her talk, Rotenberg explained five strategies that patients and families can use through their cancer journey:

  1. There is no right way to think or to feel. 
  2. Develop a coping plan.
  3. Shift from worrying to problem solving.
  4. Have fun.
  5. Lean on your support network.

“It’s very common for patients with cancer to hear, ‘You just have to stay positive,’ or ‘Don’t think about the bad stuff.’ The truth is, we don’t have a lot of control over how we think or feel in any given moment,” says Rotenberg, who acknowledges that genuinely expressing what you think or how you feel is better than trying to live up to an expectation of being happy all the time.

Throughout her presentation, Rotenberg provided suggestions on what we can do differently, including acknowledging all thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are, and using many helpful tools and practices to work through all of the emotions and feelings.

“These strategies are not meant to be a to-do list,” says Rotenberg. “Choose one or two, work on bringing them into your life and try it out. If it’s not for you, that’s ok! You’ve learned something.”

You can hear Rotenberg’s full recorded presentation on coping with the emotional impact of cancer experience on the Dartmouth Cancer Center YouTube channel. To connect with the Dartmouth Cancer Center Complementary Care Program, call (603) 650-7751 or email