Life After Cancer Treatment: Tips for the Journey

At a time when many well meaning helping professionals, friends and family members are urging you to rings bells, throw parties and “move on”; you many actually feel a little lost, confused, and emotionally overwhelmed. Challenging emotions formerly pushed away, in order to stay focused on the rigor of treatments, suddenly bubble towards the surface and demand to be heard. This is totally normal! Here are some tips to help you find your way.

Honor All Emotions
After treatment ends emotions, long pushed down, demand to be heard. There is no such thing as a bad emotion. Anger, ambivalence, fear, sorrow, and confusion can be part of the post treatment terrain and need to be validated and processed. Take time to notice your feelings and to HONOR them all. Resist the urge to ignore or shove away feelings that make you uneasy. Making time to explore all your emotions takes courage and helps you find your unique path toward well-being after cancer.

Stand Up for Your Rights
You and your loved ones may feel very differently about the end of treatment. This is very normal! Find someone SAFE to process your emotions because family members and friends sometimes have hard time sitting with the tough stuff when treatment ends.

Divest of Toxic Assets
Reflect upon what is most important to you now as you move towards wellness and get rid of anything that hinders, hurts or harms you in any way.

Nurture Intimacy and Sexuality
Intimacy and sexuality can take a beating during and after cancer treatments. Body image changes, discomfort, fatigue, anxiety, grief and miscommunication can all wreck havoc on formerly healthy sexual lives. Seeking help from therapists and medical professionals who understand the complexities of sexuality after cancer and who can help open an honest dialogue between partners can make a huge difference.

Seek Joy & Gratitude
Take time EVERY DAY to notice moments of joy and gratitude along the way. Pain, fear, gratitude and joy CAN peacefully co-exist with practice. Noticing a bright blue sky, in the midst of sorrow or fear, can remind you of the tenacious beauty even along the rocky slopes of life. Taking a few deep, cleansing breaths, when overwhelmed, can take the edge off frayed nerves. Walking, sitting quietly in a place of beauty, or hugging someone you love; can renew a wounded spirit. Figure out what brings you joy and seek it out liberally.

Ask for Help
In our “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” culture we are often quite reluctant to ask for help. This is simply not the time to be proud, shy or reluctant to ask. Just do it! Some people struggle a great deal after cancer treatments ends. Anxiety, depression, grief, relationship struggles, and even post-traumatic stress can occur in even the strongest of people. Suffering alone is never the answer. Ask your medical team to help you find helpers who understand cancer care. Therapists, support groups, yoga, tailored exercise programs, and meditation are some options that can help people heal emotionally after cancer treatment.

By: Lara Krawchuk, MSW, LCSW, MPH
Healing Concepts, LLC

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