After a diagnosis there can be many changes in patterns of thinking, planning and your overall life plan. To quote Regina Brett, a New York Times bestselling author and breast cancer survivor, “When you hear the word cancer, it’s as if someone took the game of Life and tossed it in the air. All the pieces go flying. The pieces land on a new board. Everything has shifted. You don’t know where to start.” It can be easy to slip into a pattern of worry—worrying about family, worrying about friends and worrying about the future. It is also completely normal to begin to question your existence and your life path.
The emotional changes that accompany cancer lead down a multi-pronged path, but many people whose lives have been touched by cancer take this as a time to look inwardly. Here are a few of our own tips for finding value and meaning in your life after cancer.
Assess your life: Some survivors say their cancer gave them a wake-up call and a second chance to make life what they want it to be. Ask yourself those tough questions. Am I really happy? Have I postponed things that are important to me? You may notice that answers to these questions and others will help to define what is most meaningful to you.
Give Back: For some, reaching out and helping others helps them and you find meaning in their cancer experience. Sharing your journey with the Cancer Experience Registry can be a meaningful way to pay it forward to others who will be one day face a cancer diagnosis.
Seek support: Community based organizations such as the Cancer Support Community can help you connect with others in a similar situation.
Keep a journal: Write down your thoughts about what gives meaning to your life now. Then you can read them any time you are needing a pick-me-up!
Life Review: Thinking about or writing your life’s history can clarify what you have already accomplished and what you have left to do.
Meditate or pray: Allowing yourself to sit quietly may be helpful in creating the mental space and perspective that will allow you to answer your questions about the meaning of life.
The YouTube series My Last Days by Soul Pancake portrays some great examples of people living in the present and finding meaning in their lives, while living with cancer and other terminal illnesses. Their series includes Ann Silberman, author of the popular blog “Breast Cancer? But Doctor… I Hate Pink!” and Zach Sobiech, writer of the hit song “Clouds.”
Life after a cancer diagnosis can change many aspects of your life. Surrounding yourself with a solid, supportive community, and channeling your energy in a positive way through activities like journaling, blogging, music or meditation can help you find the gift in every day.