Treatment’s Done…Now What?

Written By: Priscilla Andrews

Finishing treatment is a much-anticipated event that is normally accompanied by a period of adjustments, which are typically physical, mental and/or emotional in nature. Unfortunately, during this time of transition, people frequently contend with assumptions about how they “should” be approaching these adjustment, including:

• I should be celebrating.
• I should feel well.
• I should be the person I was before cancer.
• I should not need support.
• I should feel grateful.

It is common for people to put pressure on themselves – or for the people in their lives to put pressure on them – to feel and behave in a certain way based on these assumptions. While happiness, relief, gratitude, and a return to activities can be a part of the post-treatment experience, the expectation that these feelings dominate often puts an unfortunate amount of pressure on people after going through a period of acute stress. These expectations fail to encompass that there is a range of emotions that is a natural part of the cancer experience, including:

• Anxiety
• Anger
• Sadness
• Isolation
• Vulnerability
• Confusion/Surprise
• Numbness

While these emotions can be scary or uncomfortable, they also tend to be temporary, especially once people give themselves permission to acknowledge and express the array of feelings they are experiencing. Tapping into existing coping strategies or developing new ones is also especially meaningful during this time. Helpful approaches include:

• Being patient with yourself: Focusing on each day, doing things at your own pace and giving yourself time to heal can all help you set realistic goals that you can accomplish and feel good about.

• Using social support: Whether it be family or friends you already have in your life or finding new connections through your church/synagogue, community group or the Cancer Wellness Center, reaching out for support can help you foster an overall sense of wellbeing and increase your quality of life.

• Finding ways to help yourself relax: Cultivating calm and relaxation to help manage stress can improve your mood, including an increased level of hopefulness and self-confidence. Exercise, mind/body approaches (like yoga and meditation), and creative outlets (like writing, painting and crafting) are all excellent ways to help your body and mind repair after the stress of diagnosis and treatment.

• Working to identify what is within your control: Having a sense of empowerment can be especially rewarding after going through the destabilizing experience of a cancer diagnosis. Working to reduce stress, assessing your priorities, and making lifestyle changes are all positive ways to increase your sense confidence and self-efficacy.

Recently post treatment and looking for more guidance? Consider attending the Center’s 6-session Post Treatment Consultation. For more information, contact the Center at 847-509-9595.