Cancer Survivor? How to Manage Your Emotions After Treatment
You’ve gone through months or even years of treatment after your cancer diagnosis and finally, you’ve heard the magic words: it’s gone. You’ve been waiting forever to be rid of your cancer, and now that it’s gone, you may not be sure what to do or how to feel. By anticipating common emotions and knowing that you have options to deal with them, you might be slightly more comforted throughout this leg of your journey.
What to Expect: Fear
Many cancer survivors experience fear after their cancer goes away. Meeting with the group of people that cared for you consistently for the duration of your treatment probably became part of your routine. Often, consistency helps during difficult times. You may have even looked forward to seeing these people often or established meaningful relationships with each of them. Knowing that you will see them significantly less can be scary. It may even feel like support is dissolving around you. Beyond your care team, you might be afraid that your cancer will come back. This is also an exceedingly common worry. As much as possible, try to be open about your fears and anything else you might be feeling. Open communication means that the people close to you can understand what you need and how to support you to the best of their ability.
What to Expect: Stress
Stress is another emotion to expect after cancer disappears. You may have devoted the past number of months or years to your treatment, which means you established a routine that had little to do with daily tasks like groceries, household chores, cooking dinner, and running errands. This was completely necessary in order for you to heal, and is entirely normal. Now that your treatment is over, it may feel like significant pressure to re-establish a regular routine. You may even be returning to a job that you’ve been away from, or seeking an entirely new position. Stress will probably accompany some or all of these changes, and can feel overwhelming. Depression and anxiety are not uncommon, nor are self-consciousness and loneliness. Your body may have undergone changes as a part of treatment, and you may not be used to dressing it in jeans and sweaters or other street clothes. Feeling overwhelmed, poorly about your physical body, or completely alone is very normal. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help cope with both fear and stress.
What Can I Do?
Each person is different and needs personalized tools to cope with emotions after cancer treatment. Taking care of your body through diet and exercise is one way to exert a little control over circumstances and stay healthy simultaneously. Choosing an exercise method that works for you and taking care to nourish yourself each provide options and a chance for self-care.
Regardless of fear about recurrence, make sure to follow up with any appointments or tests like breast cancer prognostics that your care team schedules. It may be difficult to return to your treatment center periodically, but rest assured that with time, it will likely become easier.
Stay as busy as possible. Gatherings, classes, exercise groups, gym memberships, errands, and new hobbies can help to fill up time in your days so that you’re not sitting around getting lost in your own brain, worries, and stressors.
Support groups and therapists are wonderful for helping you sort through emotions. While groups provide comfort in numbers of people with similar experiences, therapists provide an unbiased ear to help you figure out exactly what you need from the world around you and from yourself. Creative outlets like yoga, meditation, art, writing, and music can also help you express yourself.
Fear and stress are common emotions for cancer survivors to experience post treatment. Fortunately, there are lots of different ways to cope with them.