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Learn About Survivorship©
Written by Cancer Center Staff

Source: Cancer Resource Room

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"An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition." National Cancer Institute

The number of long-term cancer survivors is increasing because of improved treatment. Over the past two decades, for many people, cancer has become a chronic illness that can be managed over their lifetime. If you have just been diagnosed, you may be surprised to find yourself called a cancer survivor. But whether you are newly diagnosed or have finished treatment, you may find you share common feelings and issues with other cancer survivors.

Getting Ready
For many patients, the end of treatment is a time of mixed feelings. You might celebrate that you and your family have made it through this difficult experience. However, you may also feel sad to leave the treatment team you have come to know so well. Hospital visits have become an important part of your routine. Losing that sense of being cared for and watched over can also be difficult. Many patients are surprised at how anxious they feel when treatment ends.
  • Discuss your follow-up care with your treatment team. Write down the plan and schedule for tests and visits. Ask when and how long your oncologist will be seeing you. What will be the role of your regular doctor?
  • If your regular doctor will be following you in your home area, make sure that your medical record is sent to him or her. You may also want to keep a copy of your medical record, especially if your follow-up care is in another state or city.
  • Talk with your treatment team about the best way to contact them if you are worried that your cancer is coming back or if you have long lasting side-effects.
Caring for Your Self
Your body has been through a lot. Cancer treatments can also result in both short and long term side effects that can have an impact on your daily life. Here are some tips to help promote healing of both your mind and body.
  • Emotional Health - Some people find that they have focused so hard on getting through treatment that they have left little room to experience the emotions that go along with a cancer diagnosis. When treatment ends, suddenly strong emotions of depression, anxiety, or even anger can be felt. This is the time to focus on your emotional well-being. You can do this by:
    • Talking with family and friends about how you are feeling.
    • Joining a support group, either in person or online.
    • Seeking individual counseling.
    • Keeping a journal or diary - writing is sometimes easier than talking and may help you see meaning in your life.
    • Increasing time spent doing fun things with your family or friends.
  • Healthy Exercise - Any physical activity can help with fatigue, speed recovery and make you feel better. Just a short walk each day to get the mail or walking from room to room can help.
    • Ask your treatment team if there are any activities that you should not do.
    • Choose activities you enjoy.
    • Little by little, increase your activity.
    • Find an exercise buddy.
  • Good Nutrition - Eating well-balanced meals helps with the healing process. Sometimes it takes a long time for taste and appetite to return to normal.
    • If you are finding it difficult to eat, try eating small meals throughout the day.
    • Let your family know what foods are most appealing to you.
    • If you are struggling with eating, contact your treatment team or a dietitian.

Finding Sources of Comfort and Strength

  • Live in the moment -Instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future, spend your time and energy focusing on each moment. Living in the moment can help ease stress as you notice the beauty around you.
  • Laugh - Laughter is the best medicine. Laughter makes you feel carefree and engaged with life. Laughter and fun can help bring you closer to others. Having fun together also helps your family move forward.
  • Spend time with your pets - This reduces stress and can be healing.
  • Practice hobbies and other interests that you enjoy.
  • Relax - There are many ways to relax. You may want to explore meditation, yoga, massage, aromatherapy or listening to music. Relaxation helps lessen symptoms from cancer treatment. Explore these different ways to relax and find the ones that work for you. Spend time relaxing each day.

Returning to Work and Community
Returning to work after treatment can be difficult. Just like when you started treatment, this will be a major change in your daily routine. Expect that it will take a while to get used to. You may need to do things differently than you did before your diagnosis. Here are some suggestions.

  • Before treatment ends, discuss with your treatment team how you should best manage your work schedule. They have experience in helping other patients return to work. Do not hesitate to ask them to fill out forms or write letters if you need a reduced schedule or additional time off.
  • Understand your legal rights. Some survivors must cope with limitations or physical changes. You may also be afraid of discrimination by your employer or co-workers. You will be better prepared to face challenges in the workplace if you know your rights.
  • Plan to have a meeting with your employer right before or soon after treatment ends.
  • Decide what you want to tell your co-workers and how you want to say it. Co-workers will have questions and may not understand that there are limits to your energy and what you can do.
  • Financial issues are a concern for most people. It's best to address financial issues as soon as possible rather than worrying about them later. Most hospitals have financial counselors who can advise you about programs or refer you to community resources.
Many cancer survivors feel that what they think is important in life changes after a cancer diagnosis. Some feel that there is more meaning and purpose to their life. Some want to give back to others for what they feel has been given to them. There are many ways to give back to others when you are ready .

In the beginning, the important thing is to take time for your self and your family.

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Support & Education Programs

We know that being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for you and your family. We offer a variety of cancer support services to help patients and families gain the support and information they will need to meet the challenges ahead.

To find the upcoming support program on "Living with Cancer...Moving Forward After Treatment," and education workshops, and wellness services offered this month, please view the HOPES calendar.