How to Take Back Control of Your Life After Cancer

How to Take Back Control of Your Life After Cancer


Meghan Konkol

3 days ago at 3:07 PM

As a cancer patient, a lot in your life changes, including your perspective on the value of your time and relationships. But how do you manage setting boundaries when you don't have experience doing it before? It's not as hard as you think.

One of the toughest realities I faced during cancer treatment was that there was so much out of my control. I wasn’t able to dictate or predict my good days and bad days. There wasn’t much I could do to prevent the awful side effects that came along with treatment. A lot of the time, I felt like I was just hanging on for a wild ride. For many of us, cancer is a turbulent journey in which day-to-day well-being can seem unachievable.

To take better care of ourselves during cancer treatment and beyond, we can try to focus on what is within our control. What choices can we make to better serve our well-being while navigating a situation that oftentimes feels chaotic? Personally, I’ve found that setting boundaries around my time, energy, and relationships have helped me take a more active role in creating a healthier and more fulfilling life. Here are three things you need to know about using boundaries to feel more in control as a cancer patient or survivor.

1. Your Time is Yours

Time took on a new meaning for me during cancer treatment. I would go from spending hours in the hospital waiting for appointments, receiving chemo and radiation, and recovering from surgeries to feeling like I had to capitalize on any good days when I felt well enough to just get outside for a short walk. I have learned to give myself permission to choose how I spend my free time, since I know how precious it is.

During and after cancer treatment, we may lose interest in certain activities or find that we’re unable to participate in the same way as before. There’s no shame in recognizing what’s not a good fit for us anymore.

It’s okay to let go of whatever may be using up our time in ways that no longer serve us. I aim to intentionally prioritize activities and commitments that are truly enjoyable and fulfilling (mentally, creatively, spiritually, or physically) whenever I can.

2. Choose Your People

Cancer can force us to take a hard look at our relationships with family and friends. Some people may be well-meaning, but cannot provide us with the support we really need. And some folks may be great in some contexts – like cheering you up when you’re feeling down – but not so helpful in others.

It takes some careful, clear communication, but it can be immensely helpful to be more intentional about who we surround ourselves with for various situations. Some people may be a powerhouse helping with chores and errands, while others are better suited to keeping us company at treatment, watching a movie with us on the couch, or engaging us in meaningful conversations.

If someone is making your situation more difficult in any way, you absolutely have the right to say so and enforce boundaries with them.

Maybe you only want to interact with them in certain contexts, don’t want their help on certain tasks, or don’t find their unsolicited opinions helpful. Whatever the case may be, you are better serving yourself by expressing your needs to this person and eliminating any additional stress or tension the relationship is causing.

3. You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself

Not everyone will understand the choices you make about how and who you spend your time and energy with, especially if you are making significant changes from your pre-cancer life. The good news here is that these decisions are up to you, not them!

Those who have your best interest at heart will see the positive changes in your well-being and support whatever you need to do to take better care of yourself.

Your true supporters won’t impose their own opinions or priorities in ways that are harmful to you. The best ones will listen to what you need, respect your boundaries, and want to support your mission of well-being. Boundaries are a form of self-care, and self-care isn’t selfish. Consider this your permission slip to let go of what doesn’t serve you and focus on building the best life for you!

More Like This

5 Signs You Might Be Experiencing Post Traumatic Growth
Where to Find Help for Mental Health After Cancer
Cancer Ghosting: The Traumatic Side Effect of Cancer No One Warns You About
6 Anti-Cancer Foods to Work Into Your Diet Now


Last activity by William Carson

Ben Fischer

#3 is so true. I learned that the hard way

Ashley Yesayan

Wish I had read this several years ago when I was just starting my survivorship journey!

Anne Young

Choosing your people is so important, you don't have to keep negative people in your life and even though its hard to do, you are in the midst of healing and only need positive and helpful people around. They are out there!

William Carson

Great read!


What is OneVillage?

Navigate cancer with the help of the OneVillage community. Whether you're a patient looking to learn from the experiences of others, a supporter searching for the best 'last chemo' gift, or a survivor seeking medically approved content, OneVillage is the place for you. Find relatable content, care planning tools, and community groups with advice from people who understand.

Want to learn more about how it works?

Contact Us

Sign-up to personalize your cancer journey – free, always.