Cancer Education Center

Welcome to the Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center page. Our goal is to empower patients and their supporters to become active partners in their health care by providing relevant information, increasing knowledge and learning from one another’s experiences. Follow the Cancer Education Center page and stay up-to-date as we post accurate and timely cancer-related information on topics such as cancer prevention, risks, treatments, clinical trials, end-of-life care, and survivorship. No matter where you are in your journey, we are here to help.

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Thu, Sep 13, 2018 2:09pm

Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment

By Wendy Hanson, MPH, @wendyhanson

shutterstock_751563748 feelings scale

A variety of emotions is normal and, despite being eager to return to a more normal life, it can be scary to step away from the doctors and nurses who supported you through treatment. Take time to acknowledge how and understand why you feel these emotions and what you can do about them.

Fear of recurrence in cancer survivors

Fear of recurrence is common in cancer survivors. Though they may go years without any sign of disease, cancer survivors say the thought of recurrence is always with them. You might worry that every ache or pain is a sign of your cancer recurring. Eventually these fears will fade, though they may never go away completely. The feelings might be especially strong before follow-up visits to your doctor or the anniversary of your cancer diagnosis.

To calm fears and influence your future health try to:

  • Take care of your body. Focus on keeping yourself healthy. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fit exercise into your day. Get enough sleep so that you wake feeling refreshed.
  • Go to all of your follow-up appointments. You may fear the worst when it's time for your next follow-up appointment. Don't let that stop you from going. Write down questions about any signs or symptoms that worry you and use the time with your doctor to ask them. Ask about your risk of recurrence and what signs and symptoms to watch for. Knowing more may help you feel more in control.
  • Get all your follow-up tests. Discuss with your doctor plans for follow-up and monitoring of your cancer. Together, you will formulate a specific plan based on your situation. Not everyone needs regular scans or blood tests. Ask your doctor about creating a plan to look for late side effects of the cancer therapy. Many cancer treatments can cause side effects years later.
  • Be open about your fears. Express your concerns to your friends, family, other cancer survivors, your doctor or a counselor. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of discussing your fears, try recording your thoughts in a journal.
  • Keep busy. Get out of the house and find activities that will take your mind off your worries.

Stress in cancer survivors

When you were diagnosed with cancer, you might have focused completely on your treatment and getting healthy. Now that you've completed treatment, all those projects around the house and the things on your to-do list are competing for your attention. This can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Don't feel you need to do everything at once. Take time for yourself as you establish a new daily routine. Try exercising, talking with other cancer survivors and taking time for activities you enjoy.

Depression and anxiety in cancer survivors

Lingering feelings of sadness and anger can interfere with your daily life. For many people these feelings will dissipate. But for others, these feelings can develop into depression.

Tell your doctor about your feelings. If needed, you can be referred to someone who can help you through talk therapy, medication or both. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are keys to successfully overcoming depression.

Self-consciousness in cancer survivors

If surgery or other treatment changed your appearance, you might feel self-conscious about your body.

Changes in skin color, weight gain or loss, the loss of a limb, or the placement of an ostomy might make you feel like you'd rather stay home, away from other people. You might withdraw from friends and family. And self-consciousness can strain your relationship with your partner if you don't feel worthy of love or affection.

Take time to grieve. But also learn to focus on the ways cancer has made you a stronger person and realize that you're more than the scars that cancer has left behind. When you're more confident about your appearance, others will feel more comfortable around you.

Loneliness in cancer survivors

You might feel as if others can't understand what you've been through, which makes it hard to relate to other people and can lead to loneliness. Friends and family might be unsure of how to help you, and some people may even be afraid of you because you've had cancer.

Don't deal with loneliness on your own. Consider joining a support group with other cancer survivors who are having the same emotions you are. Contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society for more information. Or try an online message board for cancer survivors, such as the American Cancer Society's Cancer Survivors Network.

Where to go for help

While experiencing any of these emotions is normal, that doesn't mean you have to do it alone. If you find that your feelings are overwhelming you, or interfering with your everyday life, it's a good idea to consider getting some help. Whether it’s talking with friends, family, therapist or as part of a support group with other cancer survivors – find what works best for you. You can also consider offering your own expertise to other patients who are going through active treatment and help them in their journey.

You know what is best for you. If you have advice for others on calming fears, talking through emotions or seeking support, please share. We would love to hear from you!

Connect with other caregivers here:

https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/caregivers/

 

Your insights are exactly correct. Thank you for acknowledging all of this. Survivor guilt can also be an issue.

I agree. I communicate on-line with women that have the same diagnosis as me, but because for me, it was discovered at an early stage, I feel guilty even participating in the conversations at times. Their circumstances are so much more challenging… I think I have no right to be involved in the discussion.

@odette

I agree. I communicate on-line with women that have the same diagnosis as me, but because for me, it was discovered at an early stage, I feel guilty even participating in the conversations at times. Their circumstances are so much more challenging… I think I have no right to be involved in the discussion.

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I can understand how guilt might arise, just remember your feelings are every bit as important as the next person's. Your world has changed and being able to express all the emotions that come with that aids in healing. Your voice is important. You might be surprised if you open up – those further in their journey may view the opportunity to help you as a gift.

@wendyhanson

I can understand how guilt might arise, just remember your feelings are every bit as important as the next person's. Your world has changed and being able to express all the emotions that come with that aids in healing. Your voice is important. You might be surprised if you open up – those further in their journey may view the opportunity to help you as a gift.

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Thank you.

@odette

I agree. I communicate on-line with women that have the same diagnosis as me, but because for me, it was discovered at an early stage, I feel guilty even participating in the conversations at times. Their circumstances are so much more challenging… I think I have no right to be involved in the discussion.

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Odette, I was diagnosed at an early stage as well. I hope to be cancer free (again) in November for the third year but the feelings of anxiety, depression and yes, a feeling that 'you have no right to complain or worry' come up for me, especially before a check up. BUT, I have learned a lot from other survivors and those going through treatment on this site and I hope I've been able to support other people newly diagnosed or early stage survivors as well. Every voice is important and every share will help all of us to be stronger, better informed and hopefully happier as we navigate this journey none of us wanted to undertake. Never underestimate what you have to share or how sharing may help you. It has helped me so much to know there are others who feel as I do about this and the other things that come up here. I am also inspired my the great courage women have when faced with cancer. Please share…….we're all in this boat together.

Hi all. I am Scott and my wife waged her war with cancer for just over 14 1/2 years. On this topic I would just like to add, from both our perspectives, the vast majority of people chose to not communicate with her once she got sick. Only two of all our 'friends' reached out and stayed in touch with her. Those two folks made a world of difference, so no matter your situation, I believe it is better to communicate than not! Stumbling and a few ummms and uhhhs are totally ok!

As the Reverend Martin Luther King said "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

@iasusan

Your insights are exactly correct. Thank you for acknowledging all of this. Survivor guilt can also be an issue.

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Hello, @iasusan – thanks for your input on this newsfeed post. Wondering if you or a loved one may have had a cancer diagnosis?

@IndianaScott

Hi all. I am Scott and my wife waged her war with cancer for just over 14 1/2 years. On this topic I would just like to add, from both our perspectives, the vast majority of people chose to not communicate with her once she got sick. Only two of all our 'friends' reached out and stayed in touch with her. Those two folks made a world of difference, so no matter your situation, I believe it is better to communicate than not! Stumbling and a few ummms and uhhhs are totally ok!

As the Reverend Martin Luther King said "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

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So sorry for the loss of your wife but how brave and strong she must have been to fight her cancer for so long. I think some people are so afraid to face the possibility that they too may get cancer they tend to shut down when someone they know well has it. When I was diagnosed so many friends came forward to say they too had breast cancer and I never even knew. Their support was so helpful.

@cindylb

Odette, I was diagnosed at an early stage as well. I hope to be cancer free (again) in November for the third year but the feelings of anxiety, depression and yes, a feeling that 'you have no right to complain or worry' come up for me, especially before a check up. BUT, I have learned a lot from other survivors and those going through treatment on this site and I hope I've been able to support other people newly diagnosed or early stage survivors as well. Every voice is important and every share will help all of us to be stronger, better informed and hopefully happier as we navigate this journey none of us wanted to undertake. Never underestimate what you have to share or how sharing may help you. It has helped me so much to know there are others who feel as I do about this and the other things that come up here. I am also inspired my the great courage women have when faced with cancer. Please share…….we're all in this boat together.

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Cindy, thank you for your wisdom and kind words. I am a year post-treatment and I am in contact with women on various sites with the same diagnosis as myself, but at different stages. As a result, I have connected with women who are early stage like myself and we communicate privately. When I read the comments of women who are facing serious challenges, I empathize so much I become terribly distressed and have to distance myself. I do not have the knowledge or experience that other women in the group can share. Like you, when an appointment is imminent, my anxiety increases dramatically and I have to make every effort to calm myself with yoga, meditation, and so on. I feel guilty for responding with such fear when there are others who are suffering so much. Many of my friends who have gone through this experience (I'm not sure how I feel yet about the word survivor), tell me that these feelings diminish over time. I do feel though as I must always be there to support women who are facing this life changing experience if possible.

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