I am coming up on my 3 year re-birth anniversary.
That is a huge accomplishment. One that I didn’t know if I would make. I can remember being discharged after being in the hospital for nearly three months. I yearned for the comfort of my family and my daily routine, but I was also scared to death. I was scared to leave the safety net of the hospital. The doctor was always there and although I hated being there, I was afraid of leaving. I didn’t know at that time, that these feelings were completely normal. I have learned a lot on this journey and there are a few tips that I would share with others who are facing this obstacle.
- You will face new challenges. Just because treatment comes to an end or your get to go home from the hospital, doesn’t mean that life will be free of challenges. While you may not have to go to chemotherapy, many financial, emotional and physical challenges will bombard you each day. I didn’t deal with panic until after my treatment was over- and it’s a big challenge I wasn’t expecting! I now know that it also completely normal to experience these things. I certainly recommend finding others to talk to. Whether it’s your doctor, partner or other survivors, it’s good to know you are not alone.
- Take control of your health. Just because you’ve had cancer, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch what you eat or lay around on the couch all day. I really think that moderation is the key here. You didn’t survive cancer to never eat carbs again. It’s ok to chill and watch Netfilx. It just needs to be balanced. I really found keeping a diet and activity diary helpful (there are a lot of apps out there that can help you with this).
- Loneliness is not unusual. You have been through a major life change. Not everyone can identify with your journey. Many people will expect you to “get back to normal.” You may even expect this from yourself! A new normal will establish itself, it will take time. You may feel like you are disappointing others. More often than not this is not the case. It’s good to talk about these things with your family and maybe even see a counselor for a while. There are many online support systems. I recommend reaching out to those who you trust.
- Cancer is not a get of jail free card. I know that it is difficult to face other health challenges after completing cancer treatment, but it is more important than ever to make sure that you are in touch with your primary care provider. They will help to make sure that you are properly screened and monitored for other health issues. Your oncologist is not your primary care provider. While they may be a very important member of your health care team, make an effort to establish care with a doctor that can look at a wide scope of problems, not just your cancer.
- Fear is somewhat normal. What do healthy people worry about? Getting cancer. It would make absolute sense that since you’ve already faced cancer, you may have to again. What I have found most helpful- is to talk about this fear. It allows the brain to process the emotion better. Once again, this is a really important place to find help from others.
Your emotional health is just as important as your physical heath. As a survivor, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on our physical health- rightfully so. However, that doesn’t mean our emotional health doesn’t need as much support, if not more. Survivorship is not just a checklist to complete, it is a lifestyle that you have to adjust to. Remember, you are NOT in this alone. So reach out for a helping hand when you need it.