The good news: you have a far better chance of surviving a bout with cancer than you ever had before at any other time in history. And many people have. They announce they’ve been given the all-clear, close friends and family bombard them with congratulations, and everyone else they know gives them a thumbs-up on Facebook. And then…what?
A recent article in The Scotsman – which all of our clients are advised to check out – confirms that post-cancer care is still uncharted territory for the medical profession and a period of physical and mental stress on the patients. Instead of feeling nothing but relief from an all-clear diagnosis, many patients find that the support system they had relied upon has been taken away, they’re not yet physically ready to pick up the threads of their day-to-day life, and the fear that the cancer will return magnifies every new twinge and ache.
The unsurprising upshot of this period is that many patients spiral into anxiety and depression, and there are many reasons for this: as one former patient noted; “My treatment was like having a wee security blanket… once you are discharged you feel like you would be pestering the hospital.”
Having gone through the experience, patients are all too aware of the pressures foisted upon the medical profession and are loathe to add to them. Also, dealing with the feeling – or outright being told by others – that they’ve been ‘lucky’ or ‘strong’ can bring on feelings of guilt.
How to cope in the post-treatment period
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – your GP will want to keep tabs on you in any case, and if they feel your condition requires more specialist care, they’ll do their best to get it for you.
Accept that you’ve gone through a life-changing experience, and take steps to deal with the negative consequences of it. If that involves counselling and anti-depressant medication, so be it – but that’s a decision for you and your GP to make.
Use your cancer experience to help others
If there’s a support group for cancer sufferers in your area, get involved. When you were in their position, wouldn’t you have liked to talk to someone who had come through the other side? More importantly, you’re not alone – there will be scores of people in your area who have gone through what you have, and will know exactly how you’re feeling right about now. Maybe you should talk to each other.
Stay in touch with the people who helped you – no matter how busy they are. Remember, you became a part of their life while they were acting as your support system, and they’d appreciate a reminder that they did something that really helped you when you needed it.
If you’re feeling worried that the cancer may be returning, say something. The worst-case scenario will be that you’ve caught something early and have maximised your chances of a recovery. The other option is that you’ll be told by someone who knows that you’ve got nothing to worry about, and you’ll be given advice on how to check for a relapse.
For more information on how to cope post cancer treatment, please get in touch with our team.