Life after cancer can be really difficult to adjust to. Some of our mums and parents say it's even harder than the treatment itself! Our Support team have some advice on what to expect and how to move through it...
Sara says... "It's a time of change."
Recovery from the impact of cancer is a gradual process. There will be physical and psychological effects that you will need to process, but no deadline to do so. Everyone recovers in their own time and in their own way. Some things will settle quickly, others more slowly and some will become a new norm that you will need to gradually adjust to. You may feel pressure or expectation, either internally or from others, to recover immediately after the treatment ends. Instead, try to think of that time in longer terms; a series of small steps for you to take, at your own pace.
It is important not to expect yourself to go back to how you were before cancer. You have been through a difficult time and much will have changed. While you are fundamentally still you, your ideas, capabilities and emotions may have changed somewhat. Having cancer may change your outlook on life and what is important to you; you may find yourself wanting or needing different things to feel fulfilled. Cancer can also change relationships and how you feel about people who you may have been very close to. This can be upsetting and unsettling, especially if you feel let down or unsupported by them.
Take time to relearn who you are and what does and does not feel good for you. Speaking to a professional counsellor can help with this process, as can reflective practices such as journaling and mindfulness. Give yourself permission to try new things, follow your instincts and what brings you joy. Be honest with the people you love as much as possible and seek out ways to have supportive, open conversations if needed.
Jennie says... "There are so many feelings."
It is common to have many mixed emotions during this time, including some you have been holding back or struggling to process during treatment. There may now be the time and space to express these feelings.
It's totally normal to feel any combination of:
Relieved at the end of treatment.
Grateful to those who have supported you.
Excited about the future.
Sad/grieving for what has been lost or changed.
Confused that you aren’t feeling what you expected to.
Numb following all that you have been through.
Let down by friends and family.
Angry at what has happened to you.
Irritated at comments from people.
Worry you will never feel well again.
Miss the reassurance that the hospital team and appointments gave you.
Anxious about your health and the future.
Less confident about how you look.
Resentful at people getting on with their lives.
Lonely and isolated.
Nervous about sharing how you feel will upset or worry your friends and family.
Struggle to relate to people who haven’t had cancer.
Dr Peter Harvey has written a useful article about this which you can read here.
You can seek support from your Information & Support Worker as someone independent of your family or friends. Alternatively, speaking to a professional counsellor can help you to process these feelings, as can connecting with other people who have experienced cancer in or around pregnancy. Our online forum is a great place to start; speak to your Information & Support Worker for access.
Jennie says... "Celebrate the wins."
Many people find it overwhelming to think too far into the future, so while acknowledging this is not a process to be rushed, you might focus your attention on the present and immediate future.
You might choose to set some small achievable goals to work towards. This can help to focus your intentions and build your confidence. It can also be helpful to focus on what is in your control and what isn’t. Try not to criticise yourself if something doesn't work out first time, but use it as a learning experience. Be realistic and celebrate every win; big or small they are all important!
Fiona says... "Routine scans can be stressful."
It is likely you will have routine scans, tests and monitoring in the year following treatment. This can be worrying and stressful, bringing up difficult thoughts and memories, and creating what has been colloquially termed 'scan-xiety'. This is normal and can be helped by talking, sharing, and being gentle with yourself. Remember, you can still ask for help and support from your network during these times!
Feeling unwell with small, expected illnesses (like a cold or a headache) can also trigger fears and worries about your health or a potential reoccurrence of cancer. This is also a normal reaction, don't feel embarrassed to share with your family, your Support Worker or a GP. If you have any health worries at all get them checked out by your health care team as soon as possible; so that reassurance and any necessary follow up can be started quickly.
Remember that support from Mummy’s Star is not only for during diagnosis and treatment; we can support and guide you through the times after too. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get support or self-refer.