Becoming a survivor of cancer can be an exhilarating experience that at the same time provokes fear and doubt. The New Year presents an opportunity for survivors to look back on everything they've experienced and make plans for the coming year. Carol Roth, LCSW, Mind-Body Therapist at our hospital in Philadelphia, shares advice for survivors as they approach the New Year.
How can survivors channel the positive energy of survivorship into their goals for the New Year?
This is very individualistic and may depend on the personality of the individual. Some people are more private and others are more open about their illness. For some patients, having cancer is a life-altering event that may bring on existential questions about the meaning of their life and how they want to live their life both during and after cancer. Some people find a new meaning in their life and re-order their priorities. They adopt a new perspective on what's important and what's more trivial. For many people, their new outlook alters how they relate to loved ones and others in their life. Overall, it’s a keener appreciation of other people.
Survivorship may reveal a lesser-discussed phenomenon in which these individuals experience doubt or fear of recurrence. Some of the energy that propelled survivors through diagnosis and treatment may let up. Survivors need to address the sadness associated with this change before they can fully accept their good news. It is wise for survivors to face each day with openness and awareness of their own emotional state.
What are common ways cancer survivors react and refocus their lives upon becoming survivors?
A few commonalities are relief, gratitude and perhaps a new commitment to give back to others in some way. For many people there is a sense of grieving for the changes that have happened to them during treatment or due to treatment. At times, there is a sense of a loss of innocence about life itself. Many of us move through life with a quiet assumption that things will always go well or that we will always be in good health. That’s why a cancer diagnosis is so shocking.
What advice do you have for cancer survivors who are making plans for the New Year?
I would encourage patients to live life fully but still wisely within the parameters of what their oncologist would find prudent. But if there are things that survivors want to accomplish or special events that individual wants to experience, then it is great to try to make happen whatever is reasonable and to live life as fully as possible.
Read what two survivors who treated at CTCA have planned for the New Year.