The word “survivorship” is often used in several different ways. At Regional Cancer Center, we define survivorship as the process of living with, through, and beyond cancer.
According to this definition, cancer survivorship begins at diagnosis and includes people who continue to receive treatment to either reduce the risk of the cancer coming back or to manage chronic disease. Some people, though, don’t like calling themselves a “survivor” if they continue to live with cancer every day. No matter how it is defined, survivorship is unique for every person. Everyone has to find his or her own path to navigate the changes and challenges that occur as a result of living with cancer.
As you finish cancer treatment, you might be wondering: What happens next? The answer is different for every person. Some people return to the lives they were leading before their diagnosis, while the lives of others are significantly changed by their cancer experience. The challenge for every survivor is figuring out how to return to everyday life while adjusting to the effects of the disease and its treatment. Recognizing these challenges and knowing how and when to ask for support can help you through this time of transition.
Life After Treatment – What to Expect
In some ways, moving from active treatment to survivorship is one of the most complex aspects of the cancer experience because it is different for every person. After treatment ends, cancer survivors often describe feelings ranging from relief to fear. Some survivors say they appreciate life more and have gained a greater acceptance of themselves. At the same time, other survivors become anxious about their health and uncertain of how to cope with life after treatment, especially when frequent visits to the doctor stop.
Cancer Recurrence and Concerns
You have completed your cancer treatment and are ready to move on with your life. You’ve gotten used to seeing your health care team less often and things are getting back to normal. Maybe you feel as if you are ready to go back to work full time, or become a more active member of your household. Or, you may still feel emotionally exhausted and tired from the treatments you had. Maybe you feel tired in body and spirit and need a long rest. You think you’ve just survived the biggest battle of your life, but now the doctor tells you it’s not over – you haven’t won the battle yet. The cancer has returned.
You and Your Primary Care Provider
Cancer care does not end with active treatment. After cancer treatment has finished, your doctor will continue to monitor your recovery, manage any lingering side effects, and check to make sure the cancer has not returned. Your follow-up care plan may include regular physical examinations and/or medical tests during the coming months and years.
With treatment completed, you no doubt want to put cancer behind you and resume a more normal life. Now is the time to take charge of your health, focus on wellness, and swear off unhealthy habits, such as fast foods and a sedentary lifestyle. Research shows that the best formula for staving off another bout of cancer is proper nutrition combined with weight control and exercise.
Wellness For Life
For many people, the transition to survivorship serves as strong motivation to make positive lifestyle changes. Although cultivating healthy habits is a good idea for anyone, it is especially important for cancer survivors. This is because survivors are often at higher risk for developing other health problems as a result of their cancer treatment. Healthy behaviors can help survivors regain or build strength, reduce the severity of side effects, reduce the risk of developing secondary cancers or other health issues, and enjoy life more.