Foundational Insights

After facing a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it is not uncommon for people to reflect on aspects of their health and lifestyle choices. For some, they were already in the habit of regular exercise or had routines or habits in place to support their physical and emotional health; and for others this presents an opportunity to run an inventory over their life and identify things that need some realignment. Your care team may have also suggested that it might be helpful to incorporate exercise or other lifestyle changes to better manage side-effects or improve your overall health outcomes (i.e., survival benefit).

People can experience a range of emotions as a result of reassessing their health and lifestyle – confusion or resentment (“but I was doing all the right things before I got cancer?”), fear or self-blame (“did I contribute to getting sick”), overwhelm and procrastination (“I don’t know where to start”), and a renewed motivation (“I feel empowered that there are things I can do”) and sometimes all at the same time. 

Coupled with these emotions is learning how your body has changed; navigating treatment and side-effects; and unknowns about what to expect about your capacity now and into the future, setting goals around your health can be difficult. 

The purpose of this topic is to start a conversation with your Valion Oncology Care Coordinator to help you bring together the health advice that you have been provided along the way and help you explore and make a plan about how to integrate and act on the changes you would like to make in your life.

What are the key areas of health people want to change?

Whilst this is not a complete list, below are the most common key areas of health behaviour change that people typically discuss with our team:


Write down what is the main health behaviour that you would like to focus on at the moment. 

  1. Is it something that you would like to start (new behaviour), stop, enhance (increase the frequency or be more consistent) or reduce? 
  2. Why have you chosen this behaviour? … someone told me I should? I know it helps my physical and mental wellbeing? I feel guilty when I don’t?

Where do most people encounter challenges in making change?

  • Where to start – it can be overwhelming navigating through all of the “health” information out there, and deciphering fad from fact or determining what is most appropriate to your circumstances or stage of treatment or recovery.
  • Just because you are motivated and have decided that the change is important won’t stop you from encountering roadblocks to change.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the goal(s) you have set for yourself
  • Tendency towards all-or-nothing behaviour (i.e., must complete my 40 minute brisk walk or there is no point going at all)
  • Sense of urgency to change your behaviour, but struggling to get motivated or you don’t have capacity to make the change you would like to see.


What advice or information have you already been given about tackling this behaviour? What information or resources do you think you need? What have you tried previously? When were you last successful? Where do you get stuck? 

TIPS: What is the best way to approach making lasting change?

  • Have a planned approach – document your goals, monitor your progress and recalibrate when you need to.

  • Have a plan for when things get off track, because they likely will! – How will you recognise when you are moving further away from your goals? 

  • Knowing how to manage setbacks without getting discouraged or feeling like you have failed.

  • Consider – does this choice support my goal? 

  • Be flexible – achieving balance and being consistent are the two most challenging aspects of making lasting change. Balance is often falsely promoted as something that can be easily achieved.

Tools to keep you on track

Tracking your progress is like having a road map. It doesn’t just show you where you are, it gives you a birds-eye view of how far you’ve come. There are a range of tracking Apps available specially designed for targeted areas of change (i.e., alcohol, exercise, sleep) or multiple habits (i.e., Way of Life – Habit Tracker).  

Tracking helps you point to little markers along your journey, mini-celebrations that remind you that you’re making headway. Those small wins aren’t just feel-good moments; they’re your road signs, telling you you’re on the right path, or giving you a chance to recalibrate when necessary.

Resources to help you set up for success

Did you know that there are over 1,000 books out there on building habits? It is any wonder it is overwhelming to know where to start. To get you started, we have developed a more manageable resource that might assist you in exploring more about Building Habits That Last.

You can also speak with your Valion Oncology Care Coordinator about how you would like to get started and develop a plan together about how you might work around any potential blockers due to your treatment or current side-effects.

Places I can go to access more support

  • Cancer support during treatment and recovery isn’t just about managing side-effects! Cancer health professionals are also there to help you better manage broader aspects of your physical and mental health. Contact your treating hospital or speak with your GP about a Care Plan and referral to someone local.

  • Speak with an Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist, Dietitian to ensure you have the right information to support, can help you get started and stay motivated, and ensure that your goals are realistic. 

  • Psychologists can help people with many aspects of your emotional and psychological wellbeing, but they can also help you better understand the choices that hinder your goals.

Key takeaways’s 

  • Know where you are, where you need to go and celebrate the small wins that get you there.

  • Be realistic – start small, focus on one change at a time and be consistent with one behaviour at a time

  • Goals aren’t achieved by willpower, they are achieved through consistent and measured steps you take, each day!

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