Life after cancer

When we think of cancer survivors, we imagine them happy and excited. We envision a lot joyful celebration in their lives. But in reality, most cancer survivors feel uncertain and confused when their active treatments have come to an end.

There are many reasons why cancer survivors may have mixed feelings. They might, for example, feel relieved that the treatment is over, but anxious about what the future holds. Some may have physical, psychological, sexual, and fertility concerns. Many survivors feel guilty about surviving – especially those who have lost friends and loved ones to the disease.

Anxiety or uncertainty about the future is almost always a concern for cancer survivors. They worry about how they will be treated and judged – even discriminated against – by their co-workers, communities, and families. They might feel very alone, being the only cancer survivor in the various groups they belong to.

And of course, they will always fear the possibility of the cancer returning. The risk of recurrence is especially high during the period following treatment. Survivors are likely to be very anxious about going for check-ups, especially the first one after treatment.

Because of all this, depression is a very real side-effect of cancer survival. Although depression is relatively common among people with cancer, it should not be considered a normal part of living with cancer, says the CANSA website.

To help cancer survivors adjust to their new lives, CANSA has the following suggestions:

* Build confidence – identify abilities and weaknesses together, accept them and build on them.

* Make time for family and friends – these relationships need to be nurtured.

* Give and accept support – friends and family relationships thrive when they are ‘put to the test’.

* Manage stress – learning how to deal with stressors when they threaten to overwhelm will maintain your mental health.

* Find strength in numbers – share problems with others who have had similar experiences.

* Identify and deal with moods – find safe and constructive ways to express emotions.

* Learn to be at peace with yourself – get to know who you are, what makes you happy, and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.

* Volunteer – being involved in the community will give you a sense of purpose and satisfaction that paid work cannot.

For more information, go to www.cansa.org.za and www.isurvivor.co.za

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