Finding Your Life after Cancer Treatments End

Kelly is 18 months post breast cancer treatment.  She told me she is still trying to find her life.  Sound familiar? Once treatment ends, you are left with a self that you barely recognize.   It takes time and real effort to evolve into a thriving Cancer Survivor.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are one year, two years or five years out and still feel stuck or feel very little forward movement.

Before, during and after cancer, your world shrinks and becomes so small.  In an effort to help understand how it has affected you, please answer the following questions:

1)  I used to  ___________which brought me great joy.

2) Physical limitations have kept me from doing ______________.

3) Lack of energy has prevented me from _________________.

4)  Post traumatic stress syndrome has caused me to ____________________.

5) Social anxiety or fear has kept me  _________________________.

6) Depression has made ________________ almost impossible.

7) Anger has been ______________________ for me.

As I was filling in my own blanks to these questions, I realized the biggest things I have been missing in my life are being spontaneous and traveling.  It was common for “Old” Denise to wake up and decide I’m taking off for an unknown destination on the spur of the moment.  That part of me has been lost since diagnosis and answering the questions made me realize how much I missed that part of me.

So I decided I had to do something about it by taking a small step forward.   On a recent Saturday morning, I woke up, looked outside at the 75 degree day and thought, “I am going to a Detroit Tigers baseball game today.”    Ever since cancer treatment ended, I kept telling myself I wanted to go to a Tiger game when I had the energy.

I called my nephew and his fiancé and asked them if they wanted to join me for a Tiger game – no tickets – let’s just go, I’ll pick you up in an hour.   They were all in, and off we drove the 60 miles north.   I felt my sense of adventure returning as we rode the People Mover Monorail to Comerica Park after arriving in the Greektown area of Detroit.  Purposefully, I chose to take the People Mover because it was too easy to park next to the stadium.  Needing spontaneity and adventure, I had to take a more exciting way to get to the stadium.  When we got to the stadium, we were able to get tickets at a reasonable price (which is often hard to do because the Tigers frequently sell out), and we had an amazing day!

At the end of the day, my nephew told me he could tell I was “getting my mojo back.”   Those were words I needed, and it made me so happy that he noticed!  Being spontaneous and doing a little travel, no matter how small, made me feel energetic and vibrant.

Small StepMy advice is perhaps you are not able to run a marathon like you used to, but you can run a mile.  Maybe you can’t jet off to Europe, but you could take a day trip to a town with a German restaurant.  Perhaps you don’t have the energy to go to a concert, but you could take in a movie at the theater.   Maybe you cannot make afghans or do needlepoint work because of Lymphedema, but it could be time for that new hobby.  You may not have the energy to garden, but you could handle some pots of flowers or herbs.  You have felt “the calling” to volunteer to help newly diagnosed cancer patients…. you can make that first phone call to your local cancer center.  Going to a Day Spa may not be in your budget, but maybe you could get a half-hour massage.

A friend who spent over two years hospitalized for a number of life-threatening illnesses, told me she had become so fearful of even the smallest things in life, and she was especially afraid to drive.  I challenged her to drive one mile to her local grocery store.  Once she made that small step, she was never afraid to drive again and is back on the road!  Her world has opened up once again.

Promise yourself to make a SMALL STEP FORWARD!  It will reap great rewards for your emotional and mental health!  And I would LOVE to hear from you how or what you did or have been doing to move forward!  Email me at  or post a comment!








  1. I live in Austin, Texas, and Ballet Austin offers a Pink Ribbon Pilates class for FREE to breast cancer survivors. Going to this class weekly has changed my life! I love the hard discipline of the Pilates routines and am getting stronger, more flexible and feeling much more energy! This class is subsidized by caring people making it possible for survivors to attend at no cost.

    • Johna, thank you so much for sharing your experiences
      with us about Pink Ribbon Pilates! I am so glad it has
      changed your life in a positive way. And hooray for
      Ballet Austin for providing breast cancer survivors a
      FREE CLASS!!

  2. Thank you for sharing. Daily, I take steps to live life to its fullest after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. But, the bi-annual visit is the oncologist is scheduled for tomorrow, and as always anxiety creeps into my space. Grateful, there have been no recurrences since I finished treatment. Trusting tomorrow’s exam will be okay.

    • My friend – I will be thinking of you. I go for my annual checkup tomorrow to the Rad Oncologist, so I will
      be thinking and praying for you!! Trusting with you that all shall be well! You are an inspiration and role
      model for all of us!

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