Living with uncertainty
For you and your friends and family, the end of cancer treatment can be a source of relief and reason for celebration. It can also signal the start of a new phase of:
- Worry over uncertainty
- Fear of recurrence
- Dealing with the question "what now"?
Following treatment your focus will shift from being reliant on health care systems for your treatment, to making more independent decisions about how you live after cancer.
The decisions you make will involve, for example:
- Re-defining priorities and coming to terms with the 'new you' post treatment
- Your lifestyle and quality of life
- Managing long term side effects or changes as a result of cancer treatment
- Looking after your health and well being.
Adjusting to life after treatment
Adjusting to life after cancer can take time. Now that your treatment is over, your friends and family may expect you to 'get on with life' – when, in reality you are still coping with the aftermath of side effects, fatigue or feeling generally unsettled.
It is important to take time to look after yourself, physically and emotionally. The information navigator topic on Healthy Eating and Exercise has some great resources to help you in this area.
Through communication you can also help the people close to you to better understand what you are going through.
There are resources in this navigator topic to help you understand what you are feeling. You might like to share these resources with people in your life, and talk about how they relate to you.
You may also prefer to talk to someone else, like a counsellor, or seek the support of other women who have been through a similar cancer experience. There are resources in this navigator to help you link in with peer support.
Living with long terms side effects
'After treatment' refers to the period following cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In this period:
- Some women may be on hormone therapy drugs for at least five years which may cause side effects
- As a result of cancer treatment, many people also experience other unexpected physical and psychological changes, which can impact on quality of life.
Some side effects or changes may be a direct side effect of treatment, and include:
- Early onset of menopausal symptoms
- Peripheral neuropathy – such as numbness, pain or tingling sensations in hands or feet
- Issues related to the removal of lymph glands, such as:
- risk of infections in the arm
- Pain as a result of surgery, radiotherapy, or some types of chemotherapy
- Problems with bone health
- Cognitive problems, such as difficulties with memory or concentration.
Remember you can always talk to your doctor if you have questions about about your health.
Other effects of cancer treatment
After you finish treatment, it is likely you will be involved in having regular medical check ups, which can be a source of anxiety and worry for you and your family.
Other issues that can arise as a consequence of living with cancer treatment include:
- Loss of confidence/self esteem
- Issues around intimacy and sex
- Emotional issues around grief and loss
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Problems adjusting back into work or study
- Financial issues
- Problems with weight
- Low energy or fatigue.
A combination of these factors can impact on your well-being and prove challenging in managing your health, and your psychological and emotional needs following cancer treatment.
The resources in this and the other navigator topics will help you to better understand and manage some of these challenges.