There’s no denying it—having cancer (or any other life-threatening disease) definitely changes the way one looks at the future. So it’s only natural that, after a diagnosis of cancer, the nature of patients’ New Year’s resolutions changes as well.

I can say that from my own experience (diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016, treated throughout that year, still on tamoxifen to help prevent recurrence and/or new cancers)  and from what newly diagnosed patients and long-time survivors have expressed both in online posts and in person at CancerPartners, a non-profit offering free educational and emotional support for Coachella Valley residents.

As I sifted through many people’s stories, including my own, I began to see some patterns emerging—certain items rising to the top of most everyone’s New Year’s lists. Here, in no particular order, are some of them.

Stay clear of grand resolutions. Keep them modest, realistic, and attainable.

Be gentle with yourself, after all you’ve been through and are still facing. And don’t beat up on yourself if you feel anxious, worried, scared, angry or depressed. Just let it all out for a moment or two, take some deep breaths, and then bring yourself back to positive thoughts and actions.

Take good care of your physical body. That includes resolving to:

  • Exercise as much as possible in your current condition. Remember, it doesn’t have to be miles of jogging—a short, leisurely walk around the block will be just fine.
  • Eat as well as possible. Whole foods that are organic and processed as little as possible are usually best. But if you’re experiencing nausea or decreased appetite due to treatments, it’s okay to indulge in foods that are less healthy but appeal to you. Just get back to the good stuff when your appetite returns.
  • Get proper rest. Take naps when you feel tired. That will help to restore your energy.

Be willing to accept help. Nancy Brier put it this way: “As hard as it can be to be on the receiving end of a helping hand, put the word out that you have cancer and ask for help. Then take it.”

Conversely, help others. “I want to focus less on me and more on others,” said Bonnie Annis on She especially wants to be compassionate toward others who have been newly diagnosed and share the wealth of information she’s gathered on her own cancer journey.

Spend more time with friends and family. Go on some adventures with them, in nature if possible.

Connect with your spirituality, whether that be through meditation, religious affiliation, inspirational readings, or prayer.

And most of all, be grateful! Thank everyone involved in your health care and every other aspect of your life. Thank God or the Universe that you are alive, for however long that may be. In fact, give thanks for all things, day and night. It’s amazing how that kind of deep gratitude makes all things endurable, even turning suffering to joy.

Anita Roark, MA, is  communications coordinator at CancerPartners, the local non-profit offering educational and emotional support to all those in the Coachella Valley affected by cancer. She can be reached at (760)770-5678 or [email protected].

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