Life After Cancer Treatment
With cautious optimism, you can finally celebrate the fact that you’re a cancer survivor. Now begins the recovery process. But for many, this recovery can last longer and be more difficult than the cancer treatment itself.
- How do you transition back into a normal life?
- In fact, what does “normal” even mean now?
There is no universal roadmap or timeline, and “normal” means different things to different people. But you can lean on the collective experience of those who preceded you and learn how to set reasonable expectations of the days and months ahead.
What Emotions Can You Expect after Treatment?
Every cancer recovery is unique, with reactions covering the full range of emotional expressions:
- Some experience jubilation, having just survived an incredibly trying ordeal. They greet each sunrise with renewed hope and gratitude.
- Others experience depression. The cancer and treatment became such permanent fixtures in their lives that their sudden absence creates a void.
And then you have countless stages of relief and grief in between these 2 extremes. The only common element is uncertainty as you face an unknown future – often without the 24/7 medical support to which you’ve grown accustomed. Overcoming latent fears is not something you can rush. The recovery process is as much psychological as it is physical. Give your mind time to heal and recognize all emotions as perfectly acceptable.
What Is a “Normal” Life After Cancer Treatment?
The concept of “normal” is as varied as the range of potential emotions.
- Many cancer survivors approach the future with reservations, taking baby steps as they slowly reconstruct their former lives.
- Others throw themselves full force into activities they abandoned during treatment. Eager to make up for lost time, they embrace new challenges and opportunities.
- And still others redefine what normal means by dedicating their lives to helping others – especially fellow cancer patients. They derive new meaning from the simple act of giving back.
However you choose to define normal, it’s important that you remain future-oriented. This doesn’t mean suppressing or ignoring the past. Doing so is both unrealistic and unhealthy. But you should make plans for tomorrow, next week, and next month. Activities can be as insignificant as movie dates with friends or as involved as major home improvement projects. The point is, future-oriented thinking is what gives our lives purpose. Decide what you want to achieve and map out the necessary steps for realizing those goals.
Handling Future Visits, Tests, and Treatments
For many cancer survivors, the most stressful aspect of remission is continued treatment. Each visit to the doctor’s office brings a new wave of emotions and uncertainty as they wait to hear updates. The best ways to prepare yourself for continued visits include:
- creating an action-plan with your physician – a timetable of tests, goals, and expectations over the course of your treatment
- mapping out contingencies that include both best and worst case scenarios
- sharing all relevant information, including any symptoms or pharmaceutical side effects you may be experiencing. Communication is absolutely critical to the healing process
- avoiding going to the doctor’s by yourself. Instead, schedule future visits with close friends or family members by your side
The above are a process – not 1-time actions. Be prepared to reassess your recovery needs periodically and develop new timetables as necessary.
Handling Social and Work Relationships
As you return to social and work settings, you might notice an interesting trend. Those who were most supportive during your treatment are often ill-equipped to offer continued support during the recovery process itself. They don’t know what to do or say once the crisis has been averted. Do they avoid all cancer-related topics in your presence or should they discuss your treatment and recovery openly? This social uncertainty suddenly thrusts you in the position of having to put others at ease. Some survivors outwardly put on a happy face and exude confidence – even when such emotions aren’t warranted. There are 2 important things to remember:
- Surrounding yourself with a supportive and loving social network is critical. If continued interaction with colleagues and friends proves stressful, then reach out to other cancer survivors or anonymous support groups.
- Decide what you need and approach friends, family members, and co-workers on your own terms. Don’t feel pressure to act (or not act) in a way that runs counter to your needs.
Have More Questions about What to Expect after Cancer Treatment?
Every year, thousands of cancer patients beat the odds only to discover that many of the most difficult challenges still lay ahead. Recovery is not an easy process. But just know that you’re not alone on this journey. If you need help or have additional questions about what to expect during remission, contact us today.