Finishing your cancer treatment is a significant milestone, as it marks the end of a difficult time in life. It’s also the beginning of a fresh new chapter, which, in some cases, can be challenging.
Reaching the end of your cancer journey can bring a rollercoaster of emotions—from a sense of relief and happiness to being fearful and anxious, as well as feeling dejected and disconnected from the world. Even though it’s normal to not feel like your usual self immediately following treatment, maneuvering such complex emotions can present new challenges, especially if you were a generally happy and positive person before your diagnosis.
Dr. Paula Finestone, a licensed clinical psychologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center, made it clear that life before and after cancer can be extremely different. “You cannot stare death in the eye and come away the same person,” she said.
So, how can you reconcile with your old self and adjust to your new life as a cancer survivor?
How to Take Back Your Life After Cancer
Here is a step-by-step guide to navigating life after cancer.
Step 1: Celebrate winning the battle
Fighting and beating cancer is a major accomplishment, so you deserve to mark the end of your journey with a generous reward. Ask yourself, “Is there something I’ve always wanted to do or buy but reconsidered because of my cancer or treatment?” It could be anything from traveling to your dream destination, gathering people you love for a potluck dinner, buying a new charm for your bracelet, getting a tattoo, or maybe even getting married.
Step 2: Acknowledge your fears and uncertainties
You can be over the moon about your cancer being cured or in remission, but at the same time, you might worry about the possibility of cancer returning. Whenever you’re feeling anxious, try to redirect your thoughts and energy toward something positive, like how you’ve survived cancer and the fact that any of the painful symptoms you had are now a thing of the past.
Though you don’t know what the future holds, you can spend today following ways to reduce the risk of cancer remission, such as eating a well-balanced diet and being more active.
Add How to Thrive After Cancer (A Survivor’s To-Do List) and The 10 Commandments of Cancer Prevention to your reading list for more information.
Step 3: Talk, share, and let others empathize with you
Opening up to people you trust or those who have your best interests at heart can go a long way in helping you move on from the past and look toward a brighter today and tomorrow. If you’re not comfortable talking to friends and family, consider joining a support group instead. Talking to other survivors can help you feel understood, and those who are further along in their journey can give helpful advice for coping with your emotions.
If you’re struggling with post-cancer PTSD, these strategies might help.
Step 4: Don’t force yourself to be an exact version of who you were
Many cancer survivors feel pressured to get back to their old selves, but the truth is, it’s not always necessary. If the activities you enjoyed before your diagnosis now feel foreign, perhaps it’s best to try something new and spontaneous. Whether it’s painting, writing, knitting, or playing video games, now is the time to find new passions. The reality is that you are a new, stronger version of yourself. Doing something that always piqued your interest but never tried before can help you to define this new chapter as something much more than “life after beating cancer.”
Step 5: Perfect your elevator speech
Mastering your “elevator speech” removes one of the most pressing concerns of survivors when returning to the normal world. You might be thinking, “I just want to move forward. What do I do if someone asks about my cancer? How do I sum up everything I’ve been through in a couple of sentences?”
Take out a piece of paper or break out your computer and compose and practice a two-minute, one-minute, or quick 30-second explanation about what you want to say when anyone asks how you’re doing and what treatment was like. This way, coming across people who are too curious will no longer require you to dig deep and recall your fight for life.
“What if I don’t want to talk about my cancer experience?” Simple—don’t. You can respectfully decline to share that part of your life. Don’t feel obligated to explain yourself.
Step 6: Accept change
From your appearance to your lifestyle, change is inevitable. For example, although your hair will grow back after chemotherapy, it may never be as thick as it used to be. If alcohol, red meat, and processed foods were staples in your diet before cancer, you will need to cut back on those and substitute them with fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense or anti-cancer foods.
Being accepting to change, adapting, and then embracing this new chapter will help you achieve the happy and satisfactory life you seek. It may not be easy at first, but it will be worth it.
Step 7: Give yourself time to adjust
The early days and weeks following cancer treatment can feel hazy, and it may take months or years for everything to sink in, Finestone shared. Regardless, don’t ever feel like you need to rush back into your pre-diagnosis routine. Even if you spent most of your time in treatment dreaming about the day you can go back to work and be in the best shape possible, you might not have the energy and mindset to pick up where you left off right away. Give yourself enough time to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The Bottom Line
New Hope Unlimited hopes that this compilation of knowledge and advice from our team and patients help you transition back into (or move forward in) life after cancer. Remember, even if there’s an overwhelming excitement to resume normalcy, taking things slowly by following our seven steps can help equip you for the next phase of your life.
New Hope Unlimited has been successfully providing alternative cancer treatments for over 200 types of cancer in the last 20 years. If you have cancer or experienced recurrence, contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about our comprehensive approach to treating cancer.