Your Path Has Been Redirected By Cancer: Now What?


Back in February, I wrote a blog about why you should tell your story. But what if your story didn’t turn out the way you wanted?

What circumstances have redirected your path? Cancer or other serious illness? Job loss? Or job change and subsequent relocation? Financial reversals? Death of a loved one? Widowhood?

Here are 5 easy steps to take during a *life redirection* season:

  1. Find a spot in nature. Or overlooking nature. Preferably within the sound of birds singing or water gurgling. (If you live here in central Oregon, your challenge will be deciding which nature-full, bird-singing, water-gurgling spot to sit near.) Have pen and notepad handy.
  2. List all that is challenging in your life. Chances are, every single loss or setback carries with it far-reaching repercussions (note the plural use) – repercussions you hadn’t written into your story. In our situation, Hubby’s two-year unemployment depleted all we had invested in and saved as a cushion against retirement, including our home equity. Which greatly affected my financial picture later as a widow. You have your own set of challenges. List them. Get them all off your chest.
  3. Dispose of that list. Tear it out of your notebook, wad it up and stick it in your pocket or backpack to dispose of later (please don’t start any forest fires).
  4. Now list how the unplanned circumstances redirected your life for the good. This may be challenging. Because you don’t see any good at all that has come from your setbacks. But go ahead, open your notebook and think long and hard. When Hubby lost his job, I had to get a job with better pay and healthcare benefits. As it turned out, working at the St. Charles Cancer Center enriched my life beyond what I could have imagined. So many incredible co-workers and cancer community members — people who loved us as Hubby was slipping away. Loved us with food and gift cards and flowers and visits and mismatched socks and chocolate and knitting yarn and designer beverages and candles and fleecy blankets and books and unclogging toilets and … (actually, it’s quite an extensive list of love). What good has come into your life as a result of that unwanted circumstances.
  5. Brainstorm over how to create something from the hard. Still got your notebook open? Plan on paper. How might you create something – a business, a volunteer opportunity, a nonprofit, a book or podcast – that can add value to others on the same hard road you walked? Because of unemployment that moved Hubby and me to a new community, that forced me to get a new job, that made us aware of cancer heroes, my book of cancer hero stories was published. Because of cancer, Hubby and I established a nonprofit, wrote for grant funding and shared our story across the country. Because of walking beside my beloved through death and stumbling into widowhood, I have written a second book and am in the process of procuring a literary agent. Embrace what can be that might not have been.

(As always, if you are newly facing something hard, you need to allow yourself time to grieve. The steps listed here are for those who are ready to begin making some sense out of a seemingly senseless situation.)

I recently came across this quote by Michele Neff Hernandez, founder of Camp Widow:

“Love never dies. Moving forward does not mean leaving everything that was behind. It just means turning your face forward, carrying in your heart what was, as you embrace what could be.”

I will forever carry Hubby in my heart and the gift of marriage/partnership/friendship with him. And I will move forward into the unknown, embracing what can be that would not have otherwise been had financial reversals, cancer, widowhood not showed up.

There is so much good that came of these circumstances – so much for me to embrace in this new season of my life.

What about you? What has happened in your life that you didn’t want to happen? What good can come of it? Are you ready to embrace a redirected life, not one you wanted, but one that can be very good?


Marlys was the care giver of her husband Gary who lived ten years after being diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, together they founded a non-profit called Cancer Adventures, sharing their story with groups across the country. After Gary’s death in 2014, Marlys has continued to share the underlying theme of her and her husband’s story: How challenges are a part of life but you have choices. She has a passion for helping people navigate life’s challenges, having negotiated a few herself.

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