Coping With Emotions

How a Recent Cancer Diagnosis Changes Your Plans for the New Year

A recent cancer diagnosis can make planning a bit daunting, but go ahead and make plans for the year ahead. Give yourself some activities and events to look forward to throughout the year.

A recent cancer diagnosis can make the prospect of planning the year ahead a bit daunting. You may wonder how treatment will affect your life and well-being or how you will feel as you move through your cancer journey. You might assume your big plans for your year, or even your life as a whole, will have to change. But you don’t have to alter all your plans — you can still pack a lot of fun into the year ahead.

Communicate With Your Doctor

Treating cancer takes a lot of time, and its side effects will need to be managed, but there’s still a lot that you can do. You don’t need to clear your entire calendar either. When your doctor discusses the treatment schedule with you, that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone.

If you have upcoming events that are important to you (like a niece’s wedding or a retirement party), discuss those with your doctor. They may be able to reschedule some of your treatment to accommodate these important moments in your life. While your doctors are working to treat your illness, they also want you to live your life, and staying social can help you deal with the stress of treatment.

Focus on Flexibility

The time investment in treatment and recovery will still have a large impact on your schedule through the year. Your treatment schedule can be adjusted for events to some degree but not for every whim. On the other hand, your doctor may need to adjust your treatment schedule in response to your body’s reaction to treatment and your overall health.

Your side effects may also affect your ability to stick to your schedule. You might need to include an easy escape in your plans. Make sure your ride home is OK with leaving a party early if your energy wanes. If you’re planning a trip, this might be the year to pay a little extra for tickets that allow for changes or refunds. And ask your friends to keep inviting you out, even if you have to cancel at the last minute.

What This Means for the Big Picture

A recent cancer diagnosis may have an impact on your overall life trajectory. It’s not uncommon for people to rethink and make adjustments to their life plans after experiencing cancer. Cancer might make some plans unattainable or no longer desirable, or you might make a slight adjustment or get even more specific about your plans.

Some changes you will want to discuss as soon as possible. For example, you may want to talk to your doctor about your fertility or a financial counselor about your savings account. It’s helpful to make a list of what concerns you and prioritize what you worry about that way.

If you find yourself worrying too much about changing your life goals, try to reframe it as imagination. Imagine what you would change in your life, and let it be a light, carefree exercise rather than one weighted with expectations. You can also do this with your therapist. In the meantime, keep working toward your current goals unless you decide to change them.

With an adaptable approach, you can still have a good year and participate in many activities that are important to you, even after a recent cancer diagnosis. Keeping the lines of communication open with your doctor — and keeping your calendar in pencil rather than pen — will help you make the most of this year and move forward into a healthier future.

If you're nervous about your first trip to the oncologist, UVA Cancer Center provides some tips on how to prepare.

Learn More
Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley