A woman stands on a giant arrow, with five checkmarks along her left side. She shades her eyes to see a hill in the distance

Goal Setting in Light of Stage 4 Cancer

Last updated: April 2023

In my time before having stage 4 cancer, goal setting was a very normal occurrence for me. I’m sure it sounds like a very normal, very adult thing to do, and it was at the time. It’s nice to have a beautifully laid out, thoughtful, 5-year plan, isn’t it?

What is not nice and normal now, however, is trying to set goals that far out with a stage 4 diagnosis. It sounds awfully morbid to question "What if I don’t make it that long?", but that is the norm for most of us.

Achieving short-term goals

I tell my wife a lot that I am one of the "lucky" ones, for now. I am stable, which is such a blessing, and I am on meds that make it easy for me to be away from the clinic for long periods of time. It won’t always be this easy though, and I know that.

Something that seems weird in times like this is having goals that I’m reaching for. The goals I had last year were to stay in the house I bought for at least a year, make sure my kid has a normal-ish life, and make it to the other side of my major surgery. Those were all relatively easy to achieve and did not take a very long time to do in retrospect.

This or That

Do you set goals for yourself in spite of your stage 4 diagnosis?

Having something to look forward to

Now when I’m setting goals for myself, I have to wonder and oftentimes do wonder, if I will make it to see these things be ticked off the list. Again with the morbidity, but it’s true. Anything can happen at any given time, and things can change very quickly in this life.

I try to remind myself that it is worth it to set these goals, no matter what. It is always worth it to have something to look forward to in life, big or small. It could be as simple as prepping for a birthday party, a fun little date, or something as big as international travel. Goals are important, and I think in light of a terminal diagnosis that can seem impossible.

At first, the easiest thing for me was to have something to look forward to after scan day. That is the most achievable thing in my opinion, something that can take about a day to accomplish.

Do things just for you

It doesn’t have to be huge either, and in my house, if someone gets poked, that someone gets a treat. I love getting some lunch at a spot close to the clinic I go to, and I also love going to the Asian market up the street afterward. I try to make the best out of a crappy day because most of the time scan days are really crappy for me.

It is easy to lose yourself in the diagnosis. It can be very easy to let little things like this slip away from you, but these things can be so important to do just for you. In this life, almost nothing is done just for you, so take that power back. Make the time for yourself, and set those goals.

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