3 Common Concerns After You Have Finished Cancer Treatment

Person with short hair pushing bike along path looking up into the skyThe day has come, thankfully. You’ve finished your course of active treatment and now you can finally move forward. But what, exactly, does it mean to move forward from cancer?

Going back to “normal” may seem impossible, as you have undoubtedly changed because of this experience. Many questions may arise, and more may continue to unfold. Some of these questions may be uncomfortable to address.

This article is intended to address some common but hard-to-talk-about concerns of people who recently finished treatment. As National Cancer Survivors Day is observed on the first Sunday of June, I thought it a fitting time to bring awareness to these concerns and how to find support.

Body Image

Your body has been through a lot. Regardless of the types of treatment you’ve had, your body has no doubt gone through changes because of cancer. For some people, the body-altering side effects of cancer and treatment are among the worst aspects. You may not look the same on the outside. You may have had scarring surgeries, hair loss, changes in weight, or any number of other physical changes. These can increase emotional distress post-treatment. Perhaps you were anticipating this. Perhaps there were some surprises. Perhaps you are grieving the body you once had.

Alternately, you may look, to the outside world, as physically unchanged. Though you may look the same to others, you may feel like you have the body of an impostor. This can be unsettling to adjust to and make sense of. Our body image—which refers to our own perception of, attitudes toward, and feelings about our bodies or our appearance—is powerful. You may hear from others how good you look. This may trigger a variety of reactions internally. Ultimately, you are the person whose opinion matters most.

Sex, Sexuality, and Relationships

How you feel about your body plays a role in how you approach sex and relationships. It affects how you feel about your sexuality. It affects how you approach dating and how you present yourself in intimate settings.

How you feel about your body plays a role in how you approach sex and relationships. It affects how you feel about your sexuality. It affects how you approach dating and how you present yourself in intimate settings.

In addition to how you feel about yourself on the inside, you may experience physical discomfort, symptoms, or other concerns related to sex. If something doesn’t feel right or okay, you may want to seek answers. Are changes in sexual function possible or probable as a result of your treatment or health status? Ask your health care professionals anything you are uncertain about, such as whether this is an expected side effect or something worthy of a follow-up. If you’re struggling with these concerns or other types of adjustment, there are many forms of support available, including individual therapy and support groups.

For those considering family planning now or in the future, discussing this with your provider, reproductive endocrinologist, or with a therapist specializing in psychosocial oncology may be time well spent.

Support Needs

The transition to becoming a cancer survivor may be fraught with questions about what to expect. It may also be laden with emotion, both positive and uncomfortable. Some people find that transitioning to post-treatment is harder emotionally than the treatment phase, when they were regularly meeting with doctors and were prepared for what might happen. You may realize there are still unanswered questions and lingering needs.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get support. Friends, family, and your spiritual community may play an integral role in actively helping or suggesting ways to facilitate your recovery. Supportive care needs may also be met online, through cancer or survivorship support organizations, medical center resource rooms, books, or other options. Many hospitals offer cancer survivor-focused support programs, such as informational sessions and groups.

Seeking support from a therapist can be another outlet. Know you are not alone in having these concerns or experiences and there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better or address unmet needs.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Marni Amsellem, PhD, therapist in Trumbull, Connecticut

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ellen K.

    Ellen K.

    May 31st, 2018 at 11:23 AM

    Cancer changes you in every conceivable way. THere is no way around that. I am changed on the outside, but I am stronger than I have ever been on the inside. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking because YOU WILL NEED IT to actually live after you have survived.

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