Part 3: Life after cancer
This is in the final blog in the short series on coping the psychological aspects of cancer. If you missed the previous two, you can find them here:
Hearing the words “you have finishing treatment” or “come back for a follow up in x months” are a cause for celebration, but often perhaps within a few days, few weeks or months, it’s not uncommon for me to see people who have difficulty re-joining life.
Life during cancer treatment was focussed on medical appointments, there was always a healthcare professional looking out for you. After wishing all the treatments are over, many people find themselves asking what now? And they feel a great deal of unease and uncertainty as life now may bring different vulnerabilities such as your body has changed, chemo brain, sexual concerns, physical energy levels, religious and spiritual beliefs and fear of recurrence.
This fear of recurrence tends to gather momentum as you return for your follow up visits. It’s not uncommon to find yourself worried when you notice an ache or pain, wondering if the cancer has returned or spread.
You can use some of the tools that we have already discussed in previous blogs to keep improving your emotional wellness and move forward in this new chapter of your life.
Through this series of blogs, I have mainly discussed anxiety and depression as they are the top reasons, I see people living with and beyond cancer. However, it’s important to remember that these psycho-social issues often need addressing to.
Fatigue especially after treatment, it can be so frustrating that you want to do things, but your fatigue and energy levels won’t allow you to do so….the key to this is pacing, basically having a rest before you need one!
Other people experience anger, towards the cancer, the doctors who they felt took too long to diagnose the cancer, family/ friends who don’t understand or who have withdrawn from their lives.
People often feel that they aren’t who they were before treatment, for example women who have had mastectomies and are coming to terms with the change in their body image.
Good communication throughout the whole cancer journey is vital and they will be difficult conversations to have, and often there isn’t a right time to have the conversation, so go ahead and have it!
Lastly some people are wanting to return to work which is great as work is so much more than a pay check at the end of the month, it’s a social experience and gives us a purpose. I would suggest that you negotiate a phased return, don’t underestimate how tiring it will be to be back at work. Don’t be too disheartened if people don’t speak to you first, often they are fearful of saying the wrong thing and hurting your feelings, so if you can be honest with them about your treatment and how you are finding it being back at work. If any of these issues are difficult, the tools we have talked about can be used, you just have to experiment, and use the ones that work best for you and that particular time
So, to conclude, I hope that you understand that anxiety and depression are normal feelings throughout your cancer journey. The key is to learn to manage them, and over this series of 3 blogs I have given you a toolkit, so you can act to address your feelings. If you find that your emotions are interfering with your daily life, please contact your GP.
These tools are what I have developed over my years of practice, however, I am also happy to hear from you, which ones you have found helpful, or if you have any suggestions for new tools, my contact details are Sue @apaininthemind.co.uk
My final thought, whatever stage you are at in your cancer journey, move through it calmly and confidently, one step at a time, through the unknown paths, always caring for your own emotional wellness.