Whoever you are, a cancer diagnosis can seriously alter both your perspective and your approach to life.

Maria-Voermans-Arrow-CrossroadsMaybe you indulged in junk food. Maybe you were a vegetarian. Maybe you had a strong faith. Maybe you hadn’t gone to church in years. Maybe you had a close-knit family that got together for Sunday dinner every week. Maybe you were estranged from your kids/parents/entire family. Maybe you had a career you loved. Maybe you had a job you dreaded going to every day. Whatever the case may be, cancer changes you. Being diagnosed and going through treatment — be it radiation, chemo, or surgery — changes your perspective on your former life. It may strengthen your convictions, or it may shatter your previous notions.

How do you balance it all? Do you try to get back to “normal?” What does that even mean? Perhaps the junk food junkie re-evaluates his/her eating habits and makes a conscious effort to incorporate some healthier choices. Maybe the faithful churchgoer struggles to understand God’s plan while the atheist finds faith. Maybe you lose the career you love, or maybe you choose to leave the job you hate.

Cancer causes us to examine our lives more closely, and how can that be a bad thing? While it can be easy after the rollercoaster ride of treatment to slip back into bad habits and dull routines, there will always be a piece of us that is different. We may not always recognize it, but every decision we make post-diagnosis is approached differently. I see it in myself every day. Many of the changes in me since my diagnosis have been positive. I believe I am a healthier version of my former self. I try to practice mindfulness and gratitude daily. I now take yoga and find time to just be in the moment, something I did not used to do. I was that person who struggled with faith and felt like my cancer was a punishment for something. Now I see it as a gift that brought me to a career I love and to being a better parent and person in general. I distanced myself from toxic family members and reunited with others from whom I was estranged.

All in all, I don’t know that there is a right or wrong way to approach life after a cancer diagnosis. In my job as a wellness coordinator in Small Stones Wellness Center, I speak with cancer patients frequently. When they are struggling to find their way during and after treatment, I always recommend they follow their own arrow.

Share Your Thoughts

How are you following your arrow? What, in your life, have you examined more closely? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Maria grew up in the historical village of Greendale, where she and much of her family still reside. In March of 2008 she began to experience pain in her right leg. An MRI showed Maria that there was a tumor in her upper thigh/groin area and that it was likely serious. She was immediately referred to Froedtert & MCW's Clinical Cancer Center, specifically the sarcoma team. She feels so fortunate to be working with cancer patients, offering support and empathy. She is blessed to have the chance to bring them educational opportunities and wellness products and services to support them during and after their treatment.

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