Aim The aim of this paper is to deepen our understanding of how patients cope with side effects from cancer treatment in daily life. Background Patients receiving cancer treatment experience acute side effects and need individualized information and guidance in order to manage treatment-related adverse events in everyday life. However development in cancer treatment and the societal demands for efficiency may limit the possibility for individualized support. Methods Nine patients were interviewed from March to July 2009 to explore the patients’ experience of coping with side effects in daily life based on information and guidance from nurses. The analysis was inspired by Kvale’s three contexts of interpretation, supplemented by Lindseth and Norberg’s method for the interpretation of interview texts. Findings The patients strive to maintain a normal life and struggle to preserve their identity but the side effects can control the daily life. Patients do not always possess the knowledge of how to handle the side effects and adaptation to the institutional efficiency can lead to lack of confidence and feelings of responsibility and guilt concerning coping with these side effects. The nurses need to be better at looking “behind the screen” and using different methods to avoid pitfalls in the information and guidance. Conclusion Lack of information and guidance based on the perspective of the patients can lead to unnecessary suffering. In spite of the societal demands for efficiency the nurses must strive to find a way to support the patients individually in controlling the impact from side effects on daily life and to create a feeling of normality.