The transition from active treatment to post treatment can feel more complicated than people expect.
Expectations that one "should" or would be feeling better - emotionally or physically - can lead to feelings of disappointment, worry, or self blame. Physical and emotional recovery may take longer than one had hoped.
As physical energy returns, people may feel the emotional impact of their cancer more intensely. This can feel overwhelming at times and unexpected, however is understandable and normal.
Family, friends and coworkers may (well-intentioned) congratulate people on being done with treatment and express hope that they go back to "normal". This leaves little room for an individual’s feeling of being changed, sense of loss, fear of recurrence, and other ongoing physical or emotional challenges.
What Can you Do?
Find Support: Talk with others who have also completed treatment. Join a Gildas Club Westchester post-treatment support group.
Talk with your doctor about expectations for what your physical recovery and follow-up plan may look like. Everyone’s recovery looks different. Don’t compare yourself to others! Setting realistic expectations and goals is crucial to avoid self blame and excessive worry. Let your medical team know what your primary concerns are, and how you are feeling about this transition.
Talk with friends and family about the wide range of feelings you may be having: gratitude, hope, and relief that treatment is over may exist alongside grief, sadness and worry. It takes time to develop comfort in “re-entering” parts of your life again, and priorities may shift. Don’t assume others understand the roller coaster you feel and what you may need from them unless you tell them.
Find ways of reconnecting with your body. Treatments may have altered your confidence and sense of agency; connection with your physical self and sense of control - in whatever way comfortable - is important. Some ideas include: breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, a soothing bath, martial arts, Tai Chi, painting, dancing, working with clay, etc.
Speak with a Gilda’s Club Westchester Social Worker or a therapist in the community to identify specific areas of concern for you and ways to address them.
Reflect on your recovery by weeks and months, not day to day. Find compassion for yourself, acknowledge the challenges you experienced, the things you have accomplished, and how far you have come!