Just because your cancer treatment was successful doesn’t mean everything is “fine”. All cancer treatments leave marks physically, emotionally and spiritually.
1. Tell your doctor about your side effects. There’s a HUGE temptation to settle for the limitations of many side effects because you feel lucky to be alive. “Compared to having cancer, what do I have to complain about?” But you deserve the best quality of life possible.
2. Find someone that you can share the stress cancer left in your life. It’s common to think “They must be sick of hearing about it.” Although true with someone, search out a friend or support person (maybe a Cancer Companion?). Isolation is not the solution.
3. Set realistic expectations with bosses, parents, spouses and friends. Once the doctor says you’re treatment’s complete, most people believe you should bounce back quickly.
4. Tell your family and friends the fatigue can last much longer than the treatments. For some, significant fatigue issues can occur for at least as long as treatment.
5. Don’t ignore your sleeping, eating and sexuality issues. Life after cancer is meant to be a full rich life. Ask your doctor for help with these concerns.
6. Know your emotions may catch up with you. From diagnosis, many people put on their battle gear to just get through the treatment leaving little room for understanding the hardship they are enduring. Then in post treatment new emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration and fears can begin.
7. Take time to work through the impact of cancer on your faith. The bigger you see God, the more you know He’s involved intimately in your life. So then what was this whole cancer thing about? Why now? Why me? Why was my treatment successful when others are not?
8. Understand that there will be a “new normal”. More than your body has changed. Your view of the future, the way other’s treat you and your sensitivity to certain subjects are all clues that change is inevitable and that your new normal is on the horizon.
9. It’s OK to grieve the things you’ve lost. Grief is the loss of future plans. The impact of cancer on your body, finances, relationships and employment may have altered your plans for the future. Even in the relief of having cancer treatment behind you, let yourself grieve.
10. Give yourself permission to do new things. Don’t put your life on hold. Post treatment is a great time to stop and see if your life fits your priorities.