Most people go through a mixture of good and bad feelings after their treatment is over.
Perhaps you feel relief and happiness that you have made it this far, and your treatment seems to have been successful.
But it isn’t uncommon to feel unsure during the first few months. You no longer have regular attention and support from your nurses and doctors. Even if they have told you to call them if you are worried, you might not want to do that.
Your family and friends may not visit or call you as much. You may get the feeling that the people around you are assuming that you are doing okay.
But, at the same time, you may think that you should be able to cope now your cancer has gone. It can become confusing.
You’re seeing somebody every day, day after day, and then suddenly it’s ‘goodbye, we’ll see you in three months'. So you’re left there on your own to cope with things.Neil
Common questions and feelings
After completing treatment, it is normal to have concerns about your future and how you will cope. Like many people after cancer, you may feel:
- uncertain, not daring to believe that your treatment really has worked. Has the cancer really gone? How can you be sure? Will the cancer come back?
- in limbo and unsure how to start your life again or even if it is what you want right now: nothing feels secure or stable
- anxious about how you will be followed up: What tests will you need? How often will you have a check-up?
- worried about possible long-term side effects and how these may affect your work, social life and relationships
- lacking in confidence: How will you cope with the changes in your body image and sexuality that your cancer and its treatment may have caused?
- you don't trust your body like you used to.
Some people feel they need to make huge changes in their life. Others are happy with the way things were before their cancer diagnosis. This is okay. You don't have to make life changes.
It took me a long time to feel more like myself.Anne
Understanding your feelings
Some people adjust fairly quickly after their treatment finishes. But for many people, their problems and fears won't just go away. You may need a lot of love and support - maybe even more than you did during your treatment.
Be kind to yourself during this time. Don't expect to feel great about everything. Go slowly so you can come to terms with all you have been through.
You may have days when you feel very down. Other days you may feel angry, fearful or frustrated. This is okay. Try to 'listen' to your feelings and accept them as they happen. It is better not to ignore negative thoughts. Most people who have had cancer say that they do feel better with time. But it usually doesn't happen overnight.
Some people still have periods of feeling down sometime after their treatment ends, even a few years.
If you don't feel like talking to those close to you about your feelings, there are services available. Reach out to your local Cancer Society for help.
[Following treatment] I felt very scared in a lot of ways, very nervous about what the future held for me.Kerry
Looking after yourself
As well as talking to others about how you feel there are other things you can do for yourself.
For example, you could try:
- being active and getting daily exercise (like walking) to help improve your mood
- eating a balanced, nutritious diet
- to stop or limit alcohol
- some form of relaxation, such as meditation, visualisation, yoga, massage or deep breathing
- reading about other people's experiences
- writing about your feelings in a journal or blogging or using Facebook
While I was filled with confidence, [my parents] were filled with dread when I came out of it.Mike
Reactions and needs of those close to you
After your cancer treatment is over, the people around you are also likely to go through strong emotions.
What has happened to you might make them question things about their own life and future.
Like you, their priorities may change. They may want to focus more on enjoying the important things in life, such as their family and friends. This can be very positive.
But you may also find that some of their reactions upset and frustrate you.
Many people with cancer say that people close to them don’t really understand how much help they still need.
They might expect you to be back to ‘normal’ much faster than you feel you can be. It can be hard to let them know this.
People with cancer often feel guilty about what their family and friends have been through because of the illness. But don’t let this override your needs. Your recovery may take a lot longer than your treatment did. This may come as a shock to both you and your family.
Let your family and friends know that you understand it is hard for them as well. Tell them how much you value all they have already done to help you but that you still need their support.
We have free counselling and psychological services for people with cancer and their family/whānau.
There may be support and benefits available to get you through your treatment.
Are you supporting someone with cancer? Here are resources that can help you look after yourself and…
We know that going through cancer is tough and can raise many questions. You are not alone.
We have health professionals to answer your questions and provide the support you need. Get in touch