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Moving Forward vs. Moving On

As I’ve mentioned many times, there are overlaps in the realms of grief/loss and breast cancer that I discover, or more accurately, come to realize when writing about either of them.

One of the things that comes up time and time again in both realms is the pressure people often feel to move on from both.

When grieving, you are allotted a certain amount of “appropriate” grieving time and then one day, people start expecting you to be done. You’re expected to move on. They really mean stop being sad, be quiet about it or whatever because they are done.

It’s the same with cancer. At some point, you’re expected to be done with that too, unless of course, you’re a lifer (stage IV or metster). Those of us who are not lifers as of this moment in time, however, are supposed to get over it. Be done. Move on. People expect us to be done, again, perhaps because they are done with it, or would like to be.

The other day, I was thinking about this very thing and I had a realization, an epiphany perhaps? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. No, not an epiphany at all, but I realized in my mind anyway, there’s a very big difference between moving on and moving forward.

You might want to read, Post Cancer Diagnosis, Where Is My Epiphany?

Somehow moving on seems to imply that we close out the past, be it cancer or grief, pack it up and keep it neatly tucked behind us. Moving on from something seems like moving away from it, ready or not.

Moving forward on the other hand and for whatever reason, again, in my mind anyway, feels more like forward movement with “permission” to take any or all of my experiences with me.

Here’s a really bad analogy.

Think about all those covered wagons filled with people taking their most prized possessions out West or wherever they were going. The wagons moved slowly forward while being pulled by horses, mules or oxen.

That’s how I envision this moving forward from grief and cancer.

I pack up all my most prized and/or significant (good and bad) life experiences and carry them forward with me through the rest of my life journey. It’s still hard at times, but I keep moving forward and at my own pace. Moving on feels more like my “wagon” had a break down and I had to move on without my “stuff.”

I told you it was a poor analogy, but it works well for me.

So yes, I move forward from cancer and grief, but I take them with me too.

I cannot just move on. Even if I could, I don’t even want to (more on that at some point).

I move forward, slowly at times, stopping or even reverting backward from time to time. But I move forward nonetheless.

What about you?

Do you ever feel pressured to move on from cancer or grief?

How do you feel about moving forward vs moving on?

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Thursday 25th of February 2021

Hi Nancy. Do you think that it's possible to move forward if you're still going through it? I'm stage 4 BC and currently in immunotherapy/chemo and feeling stuck.


Monday 1st of March 2021

Angela, Absolutely. Every day is an exercise in moving forward. That's how I see it anyway. Having said this, of course, you feel stuck at times. How could you not? Thank you for posing the question. Keep on keepin' on.

Tracy Willis

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Such a good post Nancy and so many truths in here. Having experienced grief due to BC as a young adult I totally understand that we carry our stuff with us, the good and the devastating. Even if we wanted to ditch it somewhere, short of hypnosis I’m not sure that’s ever completely possible. Having been a young BC patient myself I can say without question that my brain seems to have blocked out the very worst bits, but 7 years on most of the experience is still present, even if I’m not consciously thinking about it. This stuff hasn’t gone away and I’m thinking it will probably last as long as I do


Sunday 7th of April 2019

Tracy, Thank you for reading and taking time to comment. I think you're right. Even if we wanted to ditch this stuff, it's not really possible. Even if we think we have, or think we can, much of it remains just under the surface and can bubble up anytime.

Alesa Melcher

Wednesday 28th of February 2018

Very good analogy.


Wednesday 28th of February 2018

Alesa, Thank you.

Linda Boberg

Wednesday 17th of January 2018

Yes, I have been pressured to Move On before, twice by my boss and a couple time from daughter. My boss: Once when I was just finished with chemo and radiation and I was feeling like shit my boss told me that I needed to "Let it go" (she even used the Disney song as my ringtone on her phone), and that I should think like an athlete who after being injured, does everything in his/her power to get back to perfect health. Well, i'm not an athlete. It turned out that I had a brain tumor that prevented me from getting 'better'. It's gone now and I'm better than ever, but the day I came back after a 12 week medical leave, the same boss left a note on my desk telling me that life had been drama free for 12 weeks and she didn't want me to discuss my cancer or my brain tumor. Well, the drama had been caused by her lack of compassion (she thought that all breast cancer treatment was the same, knew women who'd only had chemo OR radiation OR no treatment and were all acting normal - she talked about this all the time! She wanted to totally MOVE ON from my problem. With my daughter, she would keep bringing up all the difficulties I encountered with both the cancer and the tumor. I wanted to scream "LET IT GO!" to her, but I realized that she needed to talk to me about this for her own therapy. Nice piece.


Thursday 18th of January 2018

Linda, Thank you for sharing your story. It sure says a lot. Hope you're doing alright these days.


Saturday 18th of July 2015

1st time here - thanks for writing. i am a 9 1/2 year invasive breast cancer survivor (with a bout of dcis 2 years ago). i totally get what you are writing about. when i was diagnosed with the dcis 2 years ago - my surgeon said: this is a blip on the radar. the one thing i had that was different from 9 years ago (when i was plunged into emotional and physical hell) was some perspective. i decided she was right and i slugged through my small surgery and radiation. i had a ring made. on the outside it just says 'forward'. what no one else knows is that is is inscribed also on the inside. the whole thing actually says: there is no brave; there's only forward. it doesn't work for everyone but it reminds me to move forward - there's no choice except to choose not to live. i wish you well and healing and every day a little more forward. (my blog stopped in 2012 but you might like a few of the older posts about healing and coming out of the fog).


Monday 20th of July 2015

Eileen, Thank you for reading and for sharing about your experience and about your ring. Your ring sounds lovely and so inspirational, too, without sounding like a platitude. I like how it has that 'secret' message on the inside. Thank you for your blog link too. My best to you as well.

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