The 'New Normal'

The end of cancer treatment is often a time to be happy and excited. You are may be relieved to be finished with the demands of treatment and are ready to put the experience behind you. Yet at the same time, you may feel sad and worried. It’s common to be concerned about whether the cancer will come back and what you should do after treatment. When treatment ends, you may expect life to return to the way it was before you were diagnosed with cancer. But it can take time to recover. You may have permanent scars on your body, or you may not be able to do some things you once did easily. Or you may even have emotional scars from going through so much. One of the hardest things after treatment is not knowing what happens next. Many cancer patients call this the 'new normal'. 

My experience after hearing I was in complete remission, I felt relieved but at the same time thinking what other health problems could go wrong? Going through cancer has made me realise the worst possible things can happen. But taking control of my health gave me the confidence to carry on. Weighing myself, checking my body and knowing what the symptoms of cancer are, really helps. Fear of recurrence is normal and often lessens over time. However, even years after treatment, some events may cause you to become worried. Follow-up visits, certain symptoms, the illness of a loved one, or the anniversary date of the date you were diagnosed can all trigger concern. 

Even though you can’t control whether or not your cancer recurs, there are steps you can take to help cope with your fears. Check out my top tips:

  • Let your health care team know your concerns. Be honest about the fears of your cancer coming back so they can address your worries. Your health care team can give you the facts about your type of cancer and the chances of recurrence. 
  • Know that it’s common for you to have fears about every ache and pain. Talk to your health care team if you’re having a symptom that worries you. Just having a conversation with them about your symptoms may help calm your fears. And, over time, you may start to recognise certain feelings in your body as normal.
  • Keep notes about any symptoms you have. Write down questions for your health care team before follow-up visits so you can be prepared to tell them what you’ve been going through since your last check-up.
  • Talk to a therapist. If you find that your fears are more than you can handle, ask for a referral for someone to talk to. If thoughts about cancer recurrence interfere with your daily life, a professional may help you.
  • Follow-up care plan. Having a plan may give you a sense of control and a way to feel proactive with your health after treatment. 

Even though all these tips can help, it is important to take care of your body and mind. Managing your stress may help reduce your fears and keep your focused on the positives.

Below are some tips that can reduce stress:

Find ways to help yourself relax
This can include breathing techniques, Meditation, yoga or just simply reading a book. 
Speak to others 

Sharing your feelings with friends and family may help you feel better. 

Joining support groups on social media can help you answer any questions you may have or just seeing someone else's story can make you feel less alone. 

Exercise

Improves your mood and boosts your self-esteem. 

Write your feelings down
It may help you to express your feelings by writing in a journal. Many people find that getting their thoughts on paper helps them to let go of worries and fears.
Charity work  Volunteering or donating gives you a sense of meaning and gives you something to focus on. 

 

It’s important to give yourself time to adjust to life after treatment, especially if there are changes in the way you look or feel, how easily you can move around, or your ability to communicate with others. Take things at your own pace. Remember that everyone is different and that nobody can predict exactly how long it will take to recover.