Optimism might make you healthier; it definitely makes you happier.

Optimism might make you healthier; it definitely makes you happier.(TRINETTE REED/VEER)Scientifically, the jury's still out when it comes to the effects of positive thinking on the long-term survival of cancer patients. One study of women with metastatic breast cancer found that those who joined support groups (and were presumably perkier because of it) survived nearly twice as long as those who didn't participate. Other studies have failed to duplicate those results.

Either way, maybe joining a group isn't your style. Experts say that what matters is finding a way of your own to cope with having breast cancer—and to remain hopeful. "Hope is helpful, even if it doesn't add a second to your life, because it adds to the quality of your life," says Robin Hershkowitz, program director for women's cancers at CancerCare, a national nonprofit support-services group based in New York City.

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Of course, you can't force hope—or invent a fighting spirit where there is none—but you can plant seeds. "Some distract themselves by going back to work," says Hershkowitz. "Others gather information, looking at treatment options, so they can begin a dialogue with their physician." Still others focus on staying in touch with friends, meditating, or strengthening their bodies. "You can't change the outcome, but you can find ways to cope with it," says Hershkowitz.

Don't underestimate the power of the basics for keeping you balanced: a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a good night's sleep.