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How Can I Handle Posttreatment Blues?

Yes, you will get your groove back after cancer treatment.

During treatment, you put all your energy and emotion into fighting cancer. Now that you can shift your focus, all the emotions you've suppressed can come to the surface.

Cancer can bring out a huge range of unexpected emotions, so you probably shouldn't be too surprised to find that the end of treatment may set off an avalanche of feelings you didn't foresee. You may feel:

  • Worried and anxious the cancer may come back.
  • Adrift because you won't be seeing your care team.
  • Frustrated because friends and family think you should be back to "normal," but you're still tired.
  • Excited or apprehensive about the future.
  • Worried about your appearance.
  • Angry.
  • Sad or depressed.
  • Numb.
  • Spiritually adrift.

 

During treatment, you put all your energy and emotion into fighting the disease. Now that you can shift your focus, all the emotions you may have been tamping down are free to come to the surface.

Fortunately, research shows that most cancer survivors eventually adjust. These pointers can help you get there a little more quickly:

Know there is no "normal" response. Expect the unexpected, and go easy on yourself.

Find something to get you going. Try a new hobby or an old pastime. After rigorous treatment for pancreatic cancer 10 years ago, Patty Hill, 61, of Corpus Christi, Texas, found her inspiration in her young grandson. "I just wanted to lie in bed when I got home," she remembered. "But Ryan wouldn't let me. He would pat my cheek and say, 'Come on,' and make me walk around the block with him."

Reach out and connect. Acknowledging emotions helps decrease stress. Talk to family and friends — or join a support group. "Connecting with others can be vital to effectively adapt to what many term as a 'new normal,' " said Frances Zandstra, R.N., director of the Cancer Survivorship Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. "As a cancer survivor, it's important to let people know what you need. This is the first step to reconnecting."

Take the following steps, too:

  • Continue your journal.
  • Talk to your health care provider.
  • Exercise and get outside.
  • Seek professional help. Speak to someone if your feelings last a long time or if they interfere with daily life.


Printed with permission from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center ©2010.

Medical Disclaimer for AARP.org

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