Of the approximate 14 million cancer survivors in the US today, many agree there’s an abundance of information about what to do after a cancer diagnosis and how to cope with the effects of treatment. Unfortunately, there is a lack of information about how to cope with life after cancer.
The end of cancer treatment is a cause for celebration. Cancer survivors are relieved to be finished with the physical, mental and emotional demands of treatment and are ready to put their cancer behind them. However, many feel overwhelmed by thought of cancer recurrence. Others still find themselves anxious about what their life will look like now that they don’t have to focus on their cancer.
What is ‘normal’ after treatment?
When radiation and chemotherapy treatments end, many survivors mistakenly think that life can go back to normal, but this can take time. Regaining full mobility, accepting limitations or physical evidence like scars, or dealing with emotional trauma may be more difficult than they originally anticipated. Some expect life to return to the way it was prior to their cancer, only to find out everything—including them—has changed. Not knowing how to manage life after cancer can be one of the most unsettling and difficult things to deal with after treatment.
What to do next
- Plan for and understand what to expect from follow-up medical care
- Understand and learn to manage physical changes (e.g., fatigue, pain, difficulty swallowing, bladder or bowel issues, memory or concentration problems).
- Accept your new body and don’t let it limit your level of connection or intimacy with others. Know that you have worth — that you are more than your cancer.
- Get help if you think you suffer from depression, anxiety or stress — you don’t have to go through it on your own. You have many doctors, support groups and friends eager to help you.
Don’t hide it. Share your experience.
- Accept help from others.
- Talk openly and frankly to friends, colleagues or coworkers about your experience.
- Keep in touch with your social and work contacts during recovery.
- Reflect on your experience.
If you are celebrating your final treatment, take time to reflect on who you are now. So much has changed from the day you were diagnosed. It’s important to look back on your journey knowing and appreciating person you’ve become.
If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of cancer, the team of compassionate cancer specialists at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center is here to help. To schedule your first appointment, call (844) 316-7077 today.