Navigating the realm of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship is a significant part of my work as an oncologist. This journey does not cease when the treatment concludes; it rather marks the onset of a new, equally crucial voyage: stepping into life after cancer, often referred to as the ‘new normal.’ It is a period characterized by learning to live with the myriad of physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer bestows upon an individual’s life.
Through my experience as an oncologist and the inspirational stories of numerous survivors, I have gathered insights that could help cancer survivors ease into their new normal. Here, I wish to share these tips with you.
Embrace Your Emotions
Surviving cancer often elicits a whirlwind of emotions: relief and joy at having concluded treatment, but also anxiety about what lies ahead. It is completely normal to fear a recurrence or mourn for the life before cancer. It’s essential to recognize and validate these feelings as the first step towards managing them effectively.
Stay Proactive About Your Health
Staying informed and proactive about your health is paramount. Keep up with your scheduled follow-up appointments and freely discuss any concerns with your healthcare team. Awareness about the risks of recurrence or secondary cancers, and recognizing the symptoms to look out for, can instill a sense of control over your health.
Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Transitioning into your new normal is an opportunity to commit to a healthier lifestyle. Consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly, ensuring enough sleep, and staying hydrated can enhance your physical health and alleviate cancer fatigue. Shunning tobacco and restricting alcohol can further decrease the risk of recurrence and other health complications.
Lean on Emotional Support
Cancer can leave emotional scars. If feelings of overwhelm surface, seek help. You might find solace in speaking with a mental health professional, joining a support group, or connecting with other cancer survivors. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a testament to your strength.
Reclaim Your Life at Your Pace
There’s no universally accepted timeline for adjusting to life after cancer. Everyone’s journey is unique. Take it one day at a time and reintegrate your routines and activities gradually. If some tasks seem more daunting than before, remember, it’s okay to ask for assistance and take breaks when necessary.
Strategize Your Finances
The financial impact of cancer can be profound. By planning your finances and exploring resources like patient assistance programs, you can alleviate some of this burden. Consider discussing your circumstances with a financial advisor or a social worker specializing in helping cancer patients.
Live in the Present
Lastly, embrace the philosophy of living in the moment. While it’s natural to worry about the future after a cancer diagnosis, dwelling excessively on the ‘what ifs’ can overshadow the joy of the present. Techniques like mindfulness and relaxation exercises can help you concentrate on the present.
The path to your ‘new normal’ after cancer may seem daunting, but remember, you’re not alone. A vibrant community of cancer survivors and healthcare professionals is always there to support you. So, embrace this new phase of life with courage, optimism, and resilience. Remember, each new day is an opportunity to live your life to the fullest.