Most people with cancer have one goal in common: remission. When you reach this milestone you may experience relief and joy, as well as feelings you didn’t expect such as apprehension and worry. After you’ve dealt with the challenges of cancer, it can come as a surprise to feel these mixed emotions. The good news is you’re not alone and there are some helpful ways to move on after cancer.
Fear of recurrence
Once your cancer treatment is complete, you can count yourself as one of the 14 million Americans who are cancer survivors. Whether you have been cancer free for years or are newly in remission, you may feel a looming fear of the cancer returning that overshadows your relief. Choosing to adopt a few simple and healthy strategies can help you achieve peace-of-mind:
- Take care of your body by eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. Focusing on your overall health will help you feel more in control of your well-being.
- Continue going to all follow-up and routine appointments with your doctors. You may have anxiety about receiving bad results, but it’s important to stay on top of your health.
- Communicate your fears with family, friends, other survivors or a professional so you can process your feelings and remember that you are not alone. If you prefer to express your feelings more privately, journaling is a positive creative outlet.
Finding your new normal
For many people, cancer treatment was a long journey. The life you were leading before cancer is not the same now. The regular interaction with your health care team, as well as with concerned friends and family, may become less central in your life once you are cancer-free. This can be a big adjustment, and can make you feel lonely and confused about what to do next.
Daily tasks that were taken over while you were in treatment may become your responsibility again, and routines at home and work will likely change as well. When you were focused solely on beating cancer, you may have set aside emotions that resurface once you’re cancer-free. Many survivors find it useful to visit a therapist to sort out these feelings, and to include spouses or children who were in a caretaking mode and are now transitioning as well.
In addition to the emotional aspects, there are often physical side effects of treatment that often need to be addressed after cancer. Cancer treatment can cause chronic health problems such as pain, fatigue and cognitive impairment. Communicate with your care team if you experience any late side effects so a survivorship support plan can be put in place.
Although life after cancer can be challenging, it’s possible to find your new “normal.” Remember that even though cancer will always be part of your life story, it doesn’t define you. Try to engage in activities that you enjoyed before cancer, and take on new adventures.
Most cancer survivors would agree that while life after cancer has its challenges, it gives you a unique perspective. You learn to truly appreciate each day, value your relationships with others in a new way, and re-focus on the things that matter most to you.
Learn more about cancer survivorship.
Get tips for follow-up care once cancer treatment ends.
Get tips for moving on after cancer