Finding your ‘new normal’
The timeline from diagnosis to treatment can be a whirlwind, and before you know it, you’re in the middle of surgeon appointments, hospital visits and radiation or chemotherapy treatment. And then, eventually, active treatment is finished and so begins your ‘new normal’. So what do you do now? Here are four tips to ease the transition from cancer patient to survivorship.
Research into cancer survivors and their ‘re-entry’ into life after cancer found that those who feel the least prepared for this transition have the hardest time, especially when managing cancer-related symptoms. It’s important to develop a survivorship care plan with your medical team, and it may be helpful to discuss long-term side effects and your follow-up care at the same time. Our nurses are also happy to answer questions about life after treatment and can help you access support services. It’s free to contact them on 0800 226 8773 or email email@example.com.
Manage the fear of recurrence
It’s normal to feel anxious or scared about your cancer returning, especially when you’re out of the ‘safety net’ of frequent appointments. Feeling worried before a routine mammogram or clinic visit – ‘scanxiety’ – is also normal. It can help to bring a support person to these appointments or plan something that you look forward to afterwards. Most people go on to live long lives after being treated for breast cancer. It can be helpful to remind yourself that you’ve taken the best recommended treatment and have done everything you can to reduce your risk of recurrence.
Feel your feelings
On the outside, you may begin to look like your ‘old self’, with your hair growing back and scars healing. But it’s okay to not feel ‘normal’ inside. You may feel like you have to be happy, grateful or even just well – it’s okay to feel this way. Others may feel confused, guilty, upset or angry – that’s normal. It may help to find a support group online or in person, or talk to a counsellor about how you’re feeling. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ funds free counselling sessions with Stratos, and you can apply online.
Take back control
It’s common to feel like you have no control or that your life is in limbo while you’re going through active treatment. Now you’re finished, it can help to re-establish a sense of control. That could include making positive lifestyle choices, like being active, eating well, practicing mindfulness or quitting smoking.
BCFNZ has designed a booklet, Thriving After Breast Cancer, which gives you information and support on what comes next. You may also like to watch our webinar, Living Life After Breast Cancer, for tips on moving forward after treatment.