Buddhists have a saying…whatever befalls you do not succumb to it.

Have you noticed that when you stub your toe or injure a part of your body all your focus and attention go to that injury? However, most injuries and illnesses are usually transitory – we get better and move on.

But things stand still when hearing news like “You have Cancer” for the first time. Just a few minutes prior, you were this normal person, then suddenly you become the disease.

Illness and disease are unavoidable elements in the human condition. But when we fixate on an illness, and the accompanying pain, it can take over our lives.

When we suffer – however serious it is – our ailment is only a part of who and what we are. If we allow it to become who we are by weaving it into our identity, it is much harder to deal with.

When we suffer from illness identity everyone suffers. And how we relate (think and feel) about an illness often has a big effect on its course. Attitude has been shown to be a very important factor not just in resilience and recovery from sickness, but in longevity and happiness in old age as well.

Even with an illness you can still be a great parent, a great spouse, a great student, and a great whatever. You just may have to do it differently than you did before.

Try to surround yourself with supportive people. Find small things that you can enjoy every day. Set realistic short-term goals for yourself. Even small goals such as a visit to a park or museum, or a phone call with a close friend, can help you make the suffering more bearable.

And remember, the illness is not who you are.