My Approach to Figuring Out Life After Cancer


My goal is to focus on what I want as a cancer thriver, especially after moving to the other side of the country.

Illustration of a man with curly hair reading a book.

In the past month, my wife and I have moved across the country and left behind everything I knew, after living in New York all my life. We then found water damage in our new apartment and had to immediately find a new home. I bought a car for the first time, and learned how much fun dealerships can be (sarcasm)… And we’re now expecting a child in less than a few months.
It’s not as crazy as fighting cancer was, but it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park… (I will say, California has great parks.)

The decisions are coming fast and furious. The responsibilities and commitments are stacking up like a high-stakes game of Jenga. And there’s not much room for a learning curve.

I may still have disabilities and trauma that I’m working through, but I’ve always felt like the world looks at cancer thrivers differently when we’re no longer bald or actively in treatment. And the general response has been clear: greater expectations and less empathy.

It’s also an adjustment that people around me aren’t familiar with my history in the same way anymore. Back in New York, my family, friends and work colleagues all witnessed what I was going through, and I felt safer not having to explain things.

Now I’m out on this new frontier, and it can feel unsettling.

Life after cancer brings challenges. Everything from financial strain, isolation and questions around identity. It would be easy to add to the list of hardships, but I try not to feed too much into that narrative. Instead, I acknowledge the obstacles and do my best to make adjustments just like I did when fighting cancer itself. In fact, in this post I’m going to share my personal approach to figuring out life after cancer.

First, I focus on what I want.

I’ve found it important to have a clear image in my head of what would be nice, what would feel good. Something to strive for. I like having a destination in mind so I can get behind the journey I’m setting out on.

If it comes easily, I’ll play around with my imagination to really explore my options… but it’s not always natural. I get worn down and go through bad moods just like anyone else. When I just don’t have it in me, I’ll let go and tap into the feeling of surrendering. Maybe I’ll go more spiritual — meditating, asking within for inspiration. Or just simply taking a break and not giving it any more thought. Inspiration comes, it comes. But in the meantime, I’m observing the world around me and my thoughts and feelings — paying attention to what feels exciting or brings out my natural curiosity.

Eventually, this helped me figure out what to strive for. And sometimes we just have to be patient and enjoy the ride along the way. Get out of our own heads, call friends, get involved in what’s happening in other peoples’ worlds.

The other area I work hard on is managing my thoughts. Life after cancer brings waves of anxiety, uncertainty, doubt and insecurity. Understanding that this is just something we should grow to expect can soften the blows instead of believing these feelings are a result of missteps or of us genuinely being inadequate. It still won’t feel great all the time, and that’s OK. This idea is called equanimity and it’s a muscle we can build over time.

Aside from managing the more challenging thoughts, I also harness the power of empowering thoughts.

I believe that when we set out for big goals, it helps to equip ourselves with the quality of thoughts that are aligned with the type of person needed to achieve these goals, at least as much as we can. That’s why having a coach or therapist can be valuable. Life in general isn’t always easy and throwing cancer in the mix doesn’t help. Having the right support systems in place can make a big difference.

That all said, in my experience, no matter how much work you put in, it’s hard not to get caught up in the comparison game.

This is when I give myself permission to release the big three…. Guilt, shame and envy. For who I am today, for who I’m not today. For who I was supposed to be. For what I could have done or be doing differently.

Forgiveness and letting go.

Then I put my head down and go back to my own vision. Putting in the work and enjoying the ride as much as I can along the way… One day at a time.

The good news is that my experience healing from cancer taught me so much about resilience and managing uncertainty. It’s also changed me as a person and clarified what’s important. And I get to bring all the good stuff along with me in the next chapter.

(I love hearing from readers. If you have questions about my experience overcoming a less than 10% survival rate or figuring out life after cancer, shoot me a note at and I’d love to connect.)

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