What’s Next After Cancer Treatment Ends? Choosing to Live What Matters

18 years ago the only thing that mattered to me during breast cancer treatment was getting to the end. To be done with cancer so my life could go back to normal. After multiple surgeries and rounds of chemo the magic day finally arrived. I was done with ready to go back to the real world. I was normal again. Oh boy!

OR, maybe not. My stamina and memory were shot. I was bald, weighed 99 pounds, and scarred. Afraid the cancer had spread or would come back. Needing to work, but physically reeling from chemo. Frustrated because I couldn’t do everything I could before. Confused, because things I used to care about didn’t seem so important. Guilty, because I wasn’t just grateful to be alive.  And ashamed, because unhealthy choices from my old life that made me sick weren’t easy to change.

“Normal” had never seemed so chaotic, scary or uncomfortable. Can you relate?

At that time in my life, I’d never ever considered what mattered most to me; I just did what was supposed to do. As my strength returned and chemo brain subsided, I noticed that being outside, enjoying time with the people I loved, walking the dog, and singing out loud to my favorite songs made me smile and feel good. After so many months of stress and fear feeling good got my attention. Note to self: Do More of This!I was creating my new normal life by doing the things mattered most to me. I still had responsibilities and obligations, but my deepest healing came from making space for what felt good.

I’ve learned that commitment to living what matters creates ease and satisfaction in day to day life. Stress, anxiety, depression and dis-ease are often found when what matters most is ignored or not honored. Taking the time to explore what matters most to you NOW is an investment in your future health and happiness.  

How do you know what matters most to you? That can be a hard question to answer. These three practices will help you find out.

HAPPY MOMENTS JOURNALING. Each day, take a few minutes to make a list of 5 things that matter to you. Possible things could be part of your list include: Something you are grateful for. Proud of. Made you laugh or smile. Surprised you. Felt safe or peaceful. A new insight or opportunity.

DREAM WITHOUT LIMITS.  If you could wipe the slate clean and have it all; what would you want?  Give yourself permission to think about this without worrying about how it could happen. Maybe your dream is to be an astronaut, and you end up stargazing with a telescope. The dream opens the door for ways to have what matters most.

CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF. Living what matters requires an honest assessment of where you are now. No good or bad, right or wrong, just a starting point for your future choices. Find a quiet moment, relax and breathe. Ask yourself these questions to prompt your thoughts, the answers known only to you:

What do you appreciate most about your life?
What no longer serves you or who you want to be?
What lightens your spirit or makes you feel safe and peaceful?
What are you drawn to or feel compelled to do?

This quote from my What’s Next After Cancer Treatment Ends? LifeBook says it all. “The uncertainty of tomorrow is what can inspire you to appreciate the here and now. Take a moment to look at all the things you put aside until tomorrow. Call your Mom or Dad. Make amends with an estranged friend. Spend a long moment holding your child and visualizing every turn in his or her face. Make time to take care of yourself. Tomorrow is another day, but there is no better moment than today to start living.” – Claudia Aguirre, age 42, 5-year breast cancer survivor

By reading this article, and considering my words, you are on your way to living what matters. Give yourself a round of applause.

Learn more about What’s Next For My Life and the Live What Matters Telecourse at WhatsNextForMyLife.com.

by Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC


18-year breast cancer survivor, credentialed life coach, award-winning author, and inspirational speaker Paula Holland De Long is an authority on how the lessons of survivorship can bring joy, passion and purpose to anyone’s life. Her company, What’s Next For My Life? ™ Inc., offers self-guided cancer journals, workshops, and life coaching support at cancer treatment centers, support organizations, and directly to patients, survivors, and their loved ones.


Leave a Reply