The Road to Recovery
LIVE FULLY AFTER CANCER
To read more about the recovering process from cancer click on the following link: Surviving cancer
Every cancer sufferer needs to go through an extraordinary process of re-adjustment after the treatment.
When you began your cancer treatment, you couldn't wait for the day you would finish. For months, even a year or more, you’ve been waiting for this date, the day of your last chemotherapy, or final radiation treatment.
Now that you have completed your treatment, you aren't sure if you're ready for life as a cancer survivor.
Most people go through a mixture of good and bad feelings after their treatment is over.
You may feel relief and happiness that you made it this far and your treatment seems to have been successful. But it isn't unusual to feel frightened and lost, especially during the first few months.
You no longer have the regular attention and support from your health support team, though they may have told you to call them if you are worried, you might not feel comfortable doing that. Your family and friends may not visit or call you as much. You may get the feeling that the people around you are assuming that you are doing OK! Many survivors say that they can feel very lonely and angry about this. But, at the same time, you may think that you should be able to cope now your cancer has gone. All these emotions and thoughts can become confusing.
Your friends and your family are all eager to return to a more normal life, it can be scary to leave the protective cocoon of your health care team, who supported you through treatment. Instead of feeling free and happy, you may be experiencing more frequent crying spells or rage attacks, not less. You may be full of grief and fear. You may not even be able to get off the couch. Loved ones wonder why you don’t feel more joy and gratitude at such a wonderful time. You might feel ungrateful?
Everything you're feeling right now is normal for cancer survivors. Recovering from cancer treatment isn't just about your body - it's also about healing your mind. So take time to acknowledge the fear, grief and loneliness you're feeling right now.
Every person who overcame cancer needs to go through an extraordinary process of re - adjustment after the treatment. Many survivors of cancer experience some form of blues, in addition to periods of relief and joy, for the first several months after treatment. Trying to grit your teeth and get through it alone is an invitation to long-term depression. At the very least, you will suffer more than you need to.
For months, even a year or more, you’ve been waiting for this date, the day of your last chemotherapy, or final radiation treatment. Instead of feeling free and happy, you may be experiencing more frequent crying spells or rage attacks, not less. You may be full of grief and fear. You may not even be able to get off the couch. Loved ones wonder why you don’t feel more joy and gratitude at such a wonderful time. You might feel ungrateful?
You probably feel your life has been turned upside down. You may think that you should be able to just pick up where you left off before your cancer diagnosis. Now's the time to return to a ‘normal' life, feel happy and positive about your future, or feel relieved you no longer have regular hospital visits. For many people who finish their cancer treatment, it isn't that simple. You may no longer feel sick because of your cancer- but you might not be feeling that great either. Knowing what to expect after your treatment can help you and your family cope with the future and any changes that you may have to make.
Recovery from cancer takes time.
You’re simply experiencing post-treatment blues, a powerful physical and emotional consequence of having cancer and treatment. More than 80% of survivors experience some form of blues, in addition to periods of relief and joy, for the first several months after treatment. Sometimes it develops into something more serious than the blues, with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression emerging. But most of the time it’s an expected time of letdown and transition.
To make matters worse, therapists who are not familiar with cancer mistake this normal experience for mental illness, for instance, seeing the fatigue as a symptom of depression rather than a consequence of cancer treatment. Even your doctor may not recognize it and give you the support you need. Trying to grit your teeth and get through it alone is an invitation to long-term depression. At the very least, you will suffer more than you need to.
Recovery is an individual, unique, holistic journey of healing
No one else can help you bounce back from illness. Your friends and family can support you in the process, but it is you who ultimately heals yourself. You have to know yourself, know what gives you strength and what makes you afraid. Know how to motivate yourself and how to build your confidence in your ability to overcome whatever obstacle might have been placed in your path.
The recovery process must be self-directed. Each individual defines his or her own life goals and designs a unique path toward those goals. There are multiple pathways to your recovery based on your unique strengths and resilience as well on your needs, preferences, experiences.
Recuperating from an illness is a multifaceted task. It involves you, your medical staff (physicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians), your family and your friends. It involves taking your time, getting plenty of rest, resuming your normal activities and exercise program, eating right, and consistently taking your medications. Most of all it takes you feeling up to the task at hand. If you are able to get control of all of these factors, with the help of your family and friends, then you will be ready and able get back into the thick of the things before you know it.
Though survivors are often motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes after a diagnosis of cancer, numerous challenges due to long term and late effects of treatment including fatigue, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and sleep complications, may make living a healthy lifestyle challenging.
How you approach the recuperation stage can be important in determining how quickly you bounce back from the illness.
Recuperation from an illness is never easy but with so many variables involved it is important to take it one step at a time.
Some of the steps you can take towards a quick and healthy recuperation include: getting your physician's OK to resume normal activities; feeling up to resuming normal activities; taking the time you need to gradually work your way back up to your normal activities and not trying to do too much too soon; taking the time to rest whenever necessary; resuming normal activities and exercise; making sure you are eating properly; following the directions for taking your medications and not missing doses; and having the social support necessary to work back into your normal daily activities.
Take the time to let your body heal from the illness and get plenty of rest. Nothing slows the recuperation process like rushing it. Do not try to do everything the first day or the first several days. If you are working, get back into the swing of work for a few days. Then if you still have energy, start adding in activities outside of work such as exercise and hobbies. However, do not try to start your workouts and hobbies at the same level you did before getting sick.
Do not rush the process. Take small steps. If you are going to go back to work then start with half days if you can. If you have the option of working from home, try that for a few days before heading back to the office for full days. If you are talking about exercise, it is especially important that you not over do it. Start with small increments for both strength training, cardiovascular, and flexibility training. The most important thing to remember is to take the time to make it work. Do not rush it. If you push too hard too soon, you will get frustrated and feel exhausted.
Getting plenty of rest is probably the single most important factor to recuperating from an illness. Rest can include sleep as well as sitting and resting. Getting enough sleep is important to the recovery process. Sleep is the time when your mind and body do a great deal of regeneration. Without sleep, your mental and physical processes suffer.
Generally, most people know when they are ready to resume normal daily activities.
However, sometimes we are not given a choice in the matter. Often your physician says you are ready, your family and friends say you are ready, and your job says its time to get back to work but you do not feel ready. This can be for a variety of reasons, including fatigue, drowsiness, depression and anxiety. While it is important to feel ready, with all of this outside pressure you will have to figure out a way to express to everyone else whether or not you are ready. Often these outside influences help you realize that you are ready. It can feel good to get up and go do something, get into a fresh environment and be around people. It’s a tough call at times to figure out if you are really ready or if you are being forced to be ready whether you are ready or not.
Activity and Exercise
Activity and exercise is another of the most important things you can do for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Resuming these activities is a good way of telling yourself that you are getting back to where you were before you got sick. These activities can be as simple as walking your dog, taking the stairs, playing with your children, or going to the art museum. This may be a good time to try some of more gentle exercise routines such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and simple stretching regimens.
Tools to help:
- Schedule a daily reminder to validate yourself on all you have accomplished. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, because they helped build you.
- Today write down ten things you have accomplished in your life that you are proud of. When you finish reading them and really soaking in that validation, write down ten more things you are grateful for, everyday.
- It may be necessary to work with a physician, coach, or psychologist to help you set goals.
You Still Need a Network of Support
It's great to have a good group of friends and family around during the good times, but it is even better to have these supportive people around when you are sick or in the recovery from an major illness. They are the ones who help you out in so many small and large ways. They get you to the doctor. They help you to eat right. They include you in their activities and social events. They remind you to take your pills. Without this support, healing from any illness, especially cancer, and recovering from it is even more difficult. It does not matter if they are your best friend, your neighbors, your biological family or your own created family. These people are a big help to the recuperation process.
These are people you can count on to ask and answer questions, share experiences, and sometimes just be there. We may not always agree with everything they say or do but we do have this disease in common so it is important to be there to support each other in times of need. One way of having access to peers with cancer is by joining a support group.
Many people with their cancer treated and controlled, now live for many years after their cancer diagnosis. This calls for more attention to be given to caring for and understanding cancer survivors' needs. Your family and friends may also find it useful to read this information. It can help them to understand that although your treatment is over, you could still face some difficult times. Their continuing love and support will help you cope, however, I encourage family and friends to also say when they're finding things hard. You and your family were probably focusing on just getting through each day: getting to your appointments on time, having tests and dealing with the side effects of your treatment. You were coping with so many emotions and changes in your life. You may not have thought much about life after your treatment.
If you haven't done before, you might as yourself the heart of all questions: "What is my life all about, are I'm true to myself, what is it I want to do?"
Throughout the work with the Health Creation Programme you will be encourage to answer this question. However, it is never to late to start now to look into this question and might feel inspired to search for answers in how you would like to see yourself in your new life - style. When you are ready, I will support and encourage you, in the gentlest way, to give attention, time, energy and priority to the things that are really important to You.
If you can, start focusing on what you can control and letting go of what you can’t. You will begin to create a well of positive energy. That might not seem like much at first, but as you add to it, it will create a foundation upon which you can build your healing.
- Explain to you the many facets of Post - Treatment Blues and what you can do about them
- Show you some practical ways to deal with the fear, sadness and anger that might dogging you
- Support you to communicate more effectively with friends and loved ones about your experience and theirs.
- Help you create a comprehensive plan for on - going medical follow up and support.
- Help you look at who you are now that you have weathered the initial storm.
- Show you how to create a personal plan to take you through the next year.