ONCOLOGY ISSUES: How a cancer diagnosis can change your life completely

Monday July 31 2017

Dr. Christopher Peterson

Dr. Christopher Peterson 

By Dr Chris Peterson sonchrispeter@gmail.com

Once you hear the phrase “you have cancer”, your values and priorities are probably going to dramatically shift. Whether you spend more time with the loved ones, embark on a career change, completely revamp your diet, or just take time to meditate and enjoy the little things in life, there is no doubt that surviving cancer, triggers profound life-altering changes.

In my conversation with diagnosed cancer patients, I always counsel them that life will not always be the same. Your sense of normalcy will constantly be evolving. Your life will be interfered with so many ups and downs in the whole process of survivorship. But eventually, you will find a “new normal”. As time goes on, you begin to feel better, gain some strength, and begin to feel more like yourself again.

Through it all, you will start to appreciate the lessons cancer has taught you and all the ways it has changed you. This is what my cancer patients go through, and below are some of my experience on how cancer has changed people and how it may change you at some point life.

1. Perception of time

The diagnosis of cancer may affect perception of time. You probably never thought about the length of your life until you were diagnosed with cancer. Throughout the process, you will find that you may become impatient, more sensitive and easily frustrated. As you begin to regain your sense of normalcy, you appreciate the time you have and take advantage of the day. Make the most of it.

2. Greater sense of support and compassion

You will find that you are eager to help, especially with someone that has been newly diagnosed since you understand the exact situation he/she is going through. You want to comfort them. Most importantly, you now speak a language after a battle with cancer. Share it.

3. Ease of forgiveness

Cancer has a way of making you look at each day as “special”. There is no time to hold grudges, and you begin to look at the “big picture” things that used to bother you, no longer matter as much. Let go.

4. Appreciation of the simple things in life

Before cancer, one just goes about their day-to-day routine. After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you reflect on how precious life is, and develop a greater appreciation for the simple things. For instance one of my cancer patients told me he is an avid outdoors person and enjoys fly-fishing and spending time in the woods.

The sights and sounds of birds and running streams and taking pictures are his “therapy” according to him; it relaxes him and clears his head.  So find your relaxation method. Find the simple things that you enjoy. Relish them. This is what I often advise my cancer patients.

5. Your priorities will change

You start to think of your day-to-day life much differently. The uncertainty of your future will alter your thought process on your priorities, career, family and friends and of course your “bucket list”.

While spending time at the doctor’s or treatment centre waiting rooms, you begin to think often on what matters, and how best to spend your time. Prioritise wisely.