Health Magazine

TRANSITION CANCER: From Treatment to Survivorship

Posted on the 06 June 2013 by Jean Campbell

The following post is by Dr. Niki Barr whose psychotherapy practice dedicated to working with cancer patients in all stages of cancer, along with their family members, caregivers and friends.

 It is not uncommon to hear cancer patients wonder aloud what happens after treatment. 

During cancer treatment, patients are continually in motion, caught up in doctor appointments, scans, radiation, chemo, labs, surgery, etc.  A connectedness forms naturally as breast cancer patients see these professionals day after day, week after week, month after month or whatever their treatment regimen calls for.

As time progresses, one learns how many kids the chemo nurse has, when the lab tech is having a bad day, what the social worker thinks of the latest food claiming to heal cancer.  Breast cancer patients pick up on personal feelings about politics, worries about healthcare, and concerns about daily living.

But then, treatment ends.  Just as life forever changed having heard “you have cancer,” life has also forever changed with the words “you’re finished with treatment”.  Just like that.

While thrilling on the one hand (cancer is deemed gone); on the other begs the question “now what”?  How do I successfully re-join regular, everyday life?

Re-connecting with your life post cancer treatment

 A very important first step is to establish a new daily routine for yourself.  Doing so will go a long way to address the “lost” feeling you may be experiencing.  Decide how you will now spend your time. Will you go back to work, work at home, stay home as you did before cancer, something else?  Making these decisions will form the foundation for structuring your day.

Focus on “I’m choosing to…”.  When you’re caught up with treatment, you go to appointments when the doctor can see you, when the surgery can be scheduled, when every professional involved has available appointment time.  Now, you have your own time, your own schedule.  Begin saying “I’m choosing to….”.  “I’m choosing to go for a walk after dinner”.  “I’m choosing to take an art class on Tuesdays and Thursdays”.  “I’m choosing to go back to work 25 hours a week”.  This tool, “I’m choosing to…”, can be very empowering as you establish your life, your time post cancer.

Setting new goals Very often, cancer patients post treatment will note  their perspective on life has changed and their goals have changed.  It’s okay to change “life course”! What are your goals now?  Take time to identify your dreams for yourself, with life as it is now. Then, outline some action plans for getting there.

Be easy with yourself.  Since you’re moving forward into another new chapter of life, remember it’s normal and okay not to know how.  You’ve never exactly been right here before.  Self nurture and “gentleness” is very important.  What one thing could you do right now to feel better, to move forward, to help yourself?

Moving On

When you leave treatment, they don’t hand out an instruction sheet for how to merge back into “normal everyday life”.  You get to make up your own way.  Sometimes, talking with a therapist can be particularly beneficial to help you navigate.  Sometimes, journaling or meeting with friends you’ve met in a support group, or reading a book on the subject of post treatment can be especially helpful.

What are you actively doing in your transition from treatment to survivorship?

About Dr. Barr

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cancer
Niki Barr, Ph.D. founded a pioneering psychotherapy practice dedicated to working with cancer patients in all stages of cancer, along with their family members, caregivers and friends.In her book, she describes an Emotional Wellness Toolbox filled with strategies and tools to help cancer patients and those who care for them achieve greater emotional wellbeing.Dr. Barr is a dynamic and popular speaker, sharing her insights with cancer patients and clinicians across the nation.


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