The biggest myth about survivorship is that once treatment ends the cancer journey is over. For many, many cancer survivors the end of treatment is not the end of the struggle. Your friends and family may expect things to go back to normal after your last treatment, but it takes time to heal physically and emotionally. Here are a few things that may continue or even begin after the last chemotherapy infusion or radiation session:
After treatment ends, it’s important to set up a follow-up care plan with your healthcare team. Always go to your follow-up appointments even if you feel well. Your follow-up care plan will depend on the stage of your cancer and the treatments you received.
To check for recurrence, your healthcare team will decide what type of screening is best for you. CT scan, PET scan, MRI, x-rays, mammograms, and blood tests are all examples of screenings. A screening schedule for a cancer survivor may be every 3-6 months for a year followed by yearly check-ups. Your follow-up care can plan may also include things like visiting a physical therapist, speaking to a registered dietitian, or joining a support group based on your individual needs.
If you have any symptoms or changes, contact your healthcare team immediately.
Some side effects may last after treatment ends or new ones may begin. Report all new and continuing side effects to your healthcare team. Many side effects can be effectively managed with a combination of nutrition, lifestyle changes, and medication. Fatigue, pain, chemo brain, insomnia, lymphedema, and cardiac issues are possible late/long-term side effects depending on your treatment and overall health.
Fear of Recurrence
Many cancer survivors struggle with the fear of recurrence. What if the cancer comes back? What if the cancer spreads? For some, these fears can become overwhelming even years into remission. For some survivors, these fears never completely go away. For others, fear of recurrence may crop up around screening times or if a friend or relative receives a cancer diagnosis. These fears are completely normal, but there are things you can do to try to manage them.
Stick to your follow-up care plan. Speak to your healthcare team about your risk for recurrence. Join a support group. Visit My PearlPoint for more ideas to help overcome fear of recurrence.
Cancer treatment can be expensive. You may be stuck with bills after treatment ends. Cancer can also lead to other financial blows such as decreased income from missing work for treatment or stopping work to recover.
For cancer survivors, it is essential to keep health insurance. Even with health insurance, co-pays and other costs can add up. Know how to navigate your insurance policy to avoid paying more than you should.
If you are struggling financially, create a budget that includes all your expenses, not just medical, so you are not blindsided by bills. Include food, gas, rent, phone, and any other expenses you may have.