Tips for Cancer Survivors
Survivorship is the next chapter in the cancer journey after treatment has ended and there are no signs of the disease. Some people think of it like a school graduation. While everyone’s journey is unique, the transition to survivorship can be exciting as well as challenging.
Coping with emotions
Many cancer survivors experience a mix of emotions after finishing treatment. This can be surprising to them but it’s actually very common.
- Be open to your feelings and emotions— don't be afraid to feel and talk about both negative and positive emotions. Sometimes family and friends aren’t the easiest to talk to… Please seek help if you are having feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety. Find a counselor, another survivor to connect with or a support group or network like Cancer Survivors Network and CancerCare.
- Don’t be hard on yourself for being diagnosed with cancer — don’t live with the “what ifs” of life or dwell on the past. Live in the present and look to the future ahead with a positive attitude and outlook. That being said…..realize that some things are out of your control — focus on the things you do have control of and take action on these instead.
- Take steps to reduce life stressors — stress will not help any situation or lifestyle. Many people find meditation and yoga very helpful in reducing stress.
Nourish your spirit and soul
It’s important to do things that help heal your whole self, not just the physical part of you.
- Try something new that you have never done before— maybe you have always wanted to start a new hobby like taking an art class or a dance class, keep living life to the fullest.
- Keep a gratitude journal as it can be extremely therapeutic to keep track of what is positive in our lives.
- Thank the people who were there for you. You can write thank you notes, bake cookies or buy a box of candy. There are many ways to show your appreciation. If you are too tired to write out notes, then type up a nice letter that you can easily duplicate. You can also send a poem or quote that says what you feel. It doesn’t have to be formal, it should just be heartfelt.
- Many cancer survivors want to give back to the community. Consider volunteer opportunities such as becoming a buddy for someone who is just starting their cancer journey.
Keep your body fit and fueled
It’s essential to get to or maintain a healthy weight, eat a well-balanced diet and be physically active. Always check with your doctor first to see if you have any restrictions.
- NCCN has nutrition tips for cancer survivors and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has general nutrition recommendations. You can also schedule a time to speak one on one with PearlPoint’s Nutrition Educator by calling (877) 467-1936 x 101 or e-mailing email@example.com
- Livestrong at the YMCA and FitSTEPS for Life are two fitness programs for cancer survivors.
- There are Oncology rehab programs across the nation for people who have short and long term physical problems related to their cancer and cancer treatments. Ask your doctor to refer you to one of these programs if you are experiencing problems.
Returning to work
It can be challenging and frightening to return to work after a leave of absence especially if you have problems such as fatigue or numbness in your fingers.
- Be realistic about what you can do and what you want to do in your job.
- If you return to your current or former job, talk with your employer about any adjustments you need to make to come back or if there is another position you feel would be better for you.
The next steps
Knowing your plan of care is the roadmap for your future health and key in reducing your risk of recurrence.
- Follow up with your doctor as recommended. Having a history of cancer increases your risk of getting cancer again. You will still need screening exams recommended for your age and gender as well as follow up exams for your cancer.
- Your healthcare provider or navigator may give you a survivorship care plan. This document lists your cancer treatment history as well as guidelines to follow for your survivorship. Not everybody will automatically receive a care plan. If you are not given one you can create your own with Journey Forward.
Celebrate the journey
Survivorship is a time for celebration. Even when you come out of the cancer battle with physical and emotional bruises and scars, you can still celebrate what you have overcome. You can honor this important milestone in your life by doing something big like throwing a party or going on a trip or doing something low key like having a spa day just for you.
National Survivor Day is Sunday June 4, 2017. Congratulations on being a survivor!
The following Oncology Navigators from Sarah Cannon Research Institute at Medical City Healthcare contributed to this article. Kathy Ames RN, Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator; JaLisa Boyd RN, Survivorship Nurse Navigator; Katie Navarte LSW, Survivorship Navigator and Gwen Spector RN GI Cancer Nurse Navigator.