Finding Meaning in Your Cancer Journey

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Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN

At first glance, many people who have never had cancer would think this sounded ridiculous. What meaning could there possibly be in a disease that takes so much? But, for many people, part of moving on after a diagnosis is finding meaning in the journey. They may ask themselves what can I take from this to become a better person? How can my experience help others? How can this experience help me live life differently? For some, this comes easy, for others it takes time.

Every patient’s experience, and how it affects their life, is different. Some survivors will jump right back into their “old” life as if nothing had happened- perhaps that is what is most therapeutic for them. However, other survivors will question why they had the disease, what it means for life after cancer and how to go on. There are things you can do to help in your search for meaning; find what works for you.

  • Mediate or pray to help gain perspective. A spiritual leader may be able to help you in your search.
  • Participate in a practice like yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong that helps to focus and center your thoughts.
  • Talk with others who have had similar experiences by joining a support or networking group.
  • Help others with a new diagnosis by participating in a “buddy program.”
  • Read uplifting stories or blogs addressing the human spirit or other survivor’s stories.
  • Be kind to yourself. Allow for the full range of feelings to come to the surface and acknowledge that they are normal.
  • Express your experiences through creativity – art, photography, poetry, dance or music.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Writing your thoughts can be very therapeutic even if you’ve never journaled before.
  • Take part in awareness events such as 5K races for cancer advocacy organizations.

This is by no means a comprehensive list – find what works for you. From this meaning, many find that “paying it forward” is something that brings them joy. You may not realize, but you can find a way to pay it forward no matter your situation. It’s not always about a big check- in fact, some of the best pay it forward stories don’t involve money at all. In our next blog we will talk about finding ways to get involved and “pay it forward”.

Got a pay it forward story you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below!