Living with cancer blog

How to find meaning after a cancer diagnosis

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. October 27, 2012

One of the common emotions or feelings that survivors experience is a real sense of uncertainty and loss when faced with a diagnosis of cancer.

Cancer changes people in ways that aren't always visible. In a way, your life has been interrupted by cancer, which may leave you with a feeling a loss of control or that your story is incomplete.

Many of you search for a sense of meaning or purpose behind your diagnosis. As you search for meaning in your experience, the process can help you deal with the stress and feelings of uncertainty and fear.

As you complete the intense experience of diagnosis and treatment, finding meaning in survivorship can help you live in the moment. You may gain a new sense of appreciation for living and a strong need to understand what greater purpose you may have to complete.

Everyone deals with these emotions differently. Finding joy and gratitude during this time isn't always easy, but set your intentions on giving it a try. Focus on the things that are good in your life. Ask yourself — Who am I? Why am I here? As you look for new meaning in your life, you may want to consider of few of these ideas:

  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings — focus on what you are grateful for.
  • Use the creative process to uncover deep emotions using art, music or meditation — focus on newfound joy.
  • Identify the things that are most important in your life — start to plan for your future.
  • Talk to other survivors and share your experience on the topic of finding meaning in their cancer experience.

You may find that in the process of searching for meaning, you identify areas in your life that you'd like to change. Make a plan for how you'll do this. Remember to focus and channel your energy on those things that bring personal happiness and joy.

An excellent resource on this topic is a book titled "Train Your Brain ... Engage Your Heart ... Transform Your Life," by Amit Sood, M.D. Dr. Sood is the Director of Research and Practice — Complementary and Integrative Medicine at Mayo Clinic.

Have you searched for meaning after your cancer diagnosis? Write about your experience on the blog..


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Oct. 27, 2012