After Cancer Treatment Finishes - What Next?
I know from my clients and my own experience how very strange the end of treatment feels. It is a surreal moment to see no regular appointments for chemo infusion, injections or radiotherapy on the weekly planner. It is such an exciting time and one most patients mark with a celebration once they have crawled there way through the strenuous treatment plan and finally collapse with a big sigh over the finish line, mentally and often physically exhausted.
The day after the final treatment is often an anti-climax and it is a rude awakening to find you are on your own, without a medical team meeting you regularly and cheery nurses metaphorically holding your hand. Now you are left to your own devices bar some later scheduled scans. What then?
I knew this time was coming for me and though I had the days counted to the hour that the treatment ordeal would be over, I knew it wouldn’t be all that. There is no end, there is no final end cure. I also knew to expect people to ask me, with hope in their eyes, ‘have I got the all clear?’. Instead I jumped in fast, before they could ask that burning question, to explain that there was no such thing as an all clear final test, there was just a wait and see instead. For TNBC there are stats that are hard to take, such as in the first three years there is a high percentage chance of it returning and after 5 years it suddenly becomes the best type of breast cancer going with a better chance of it not returning compared to other breast cancers. But there are no guarantees.
Living with this in the back of my mind has been sometimes a bit tough. I am making plans for our small farm holding, we bought it the year before the diagnosis, which I am eternally grateful for as we may not have bought it knowing what we know now. Projects we are now planning will be years in the making. Will I be here to see them? Who knows. What I do know is I can’t let that stop me planning projects into the future. I can’t sit around wrapped in cotton wool and running to the GP with every twitch I have. I need to take ownership of my mind and body and I wholeheartedly encourage my clients to do the same.
What you can do to Help yourself after Cancer Treatment Finishes
The important steps are the scans, and to keep checking regularly for lumps and other symptoms in the places we have individually been briefed on by our Oncology team. If you didn’t get a breakdown of body parts to monitor you are perfectly entitled to ask the Oncologist even if it is months after your treatment has finished.
Life can go back to your version of normal, if you let it. The only difference between the person you were before and the person you are now is the vast amount of knowledge you have gained since your diagnosis. I love having this in-depth Cancer knowledge. I had no idea I would become an expert in Cancer the day before my own diagnosis. I love learning and this was a free intensive degree in my mind and an on the job training course combined!
Perhaps there is something you can do with this new knowledge? For example, I have let everyone in my family and friends circle know they have permission to get friends to call me for a chat if they have been diagnosed and have no one to talk to, or want to find out more about different treatments. I set up ‘CBT for Cancer’ on the side of my regular CBT practice as I now have this lucky insight into my clients’ life and a better level of empathy to understand the vast array of emotions they experience. I never know Cancer would be a dedicated specialised area of practice for me when I set up on my own ten years ago, back then I was immersed in anxiety and self-esteem specialisms, though of course they are very much intertwined with my CBT for Cancer practice.
Is there something you can give back to those going through treatment? Maybe it’s getting involved in Charity, volunteer work, writing a blog, speaking at work, awareness campaigns. But then you don’t have to get involved in any of this either, though you may be guilt pressed into it by others. You can politely just say no, you are finished with that chapter and put it behind you and why not?
Do whatever feels right for you.
If you are struggling to find your feet after treatment ends I love helping people get back into their regular lives with a spring in their step. Please don’t hesitate to book in for a free 20min pre-therapy call to see how I can help you get back in charge of your life.