Now what? Is that it? Am I done with cancer? How do I keep it away? How do I know it’s not back? Why do I feel lonelier now than I did during treatment?
These questions often plague a cancer survivor. It can be frightening to finish treatment. For the past few months you have seen physicians, nurses, therapists and other health care professionals sometimes daily; and now you are on your own. Here are 5 things I tell my patients.
- Make sure you have a treatment summary and a survivorship plan from each of your cancer specialists. And make sure that your primary care physician has a copy too.
- Understand that the transition from cancer specialists back to your primary care physician may result in a lot of anxiety for you and your family. That is normal. And o.k. Trust this doctor.
- Make sure you and your primary care physician keep a watch for signs of late treatment side effects. Let your primary care physician know about any new symptoms that you may experience. While I don’t want you to become paranoid, I do want you to communicate with your doctor. If your physician has any concerns, he will send you to see your cancer specialist. You can always contact your specialist if you are not satisfied.
- Keep up to date screening recommendations for people with your type of cancer. Follow the survivorship plan carefully. Also continue to have the recommended screenings for other types of cancers. Just because you had one type, unfortunately doesn’t make you immune to others.
- Embrace new healthy habits, like a good diet and daily exercise. You have been given another chance. Make the best of it.
Many survivors have a New Normal. It will take some time for your body to find this new normal. Your energy levels, eating habits, and appearance may have changed. Find out what is best for the new you. Worrying about recurrence is a part of this new normal. It can be healthy as long as it doesn’t consume you. Following these 5 steps can help you to be a healthy, happy survivor.