Adjusting from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor isn't just about celebration and gratitude. In addition to dealing with fatigue or other side effects of surgery or treatment, patients may be surprised by feelings that can include fear and uncertainty, anxiety, sadness and irritability.
Common areas of distress may include:
Fear that the cancer will return ― Many cancer survivors describe a roller coaster of fear before medical checkups, followed by feeling great after “clear” checkups. Getting support through cancer survivor groups or online communities can help.
Expectations as a survivor ― Some people embrace the role of cancer survivor by participating in public events. Some patients would rather distance themselves from the disease. Survivors needn’t conform to others’ expectations on what it means to be a cancer survivor.
Return to normal activities ― Returning to normal activities can be a relief and frustrating because of lack of energy or focus. The patient’s treatment team can help develop a realistic plan with flexible, achievable goals. Eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight all help return to more familiar energy levels.
Return to sexual intimacy ― Fatigue, lingering treatment side effects, anxiety and depression can limit sexual desire. It often takes time, effort and mutual understanding between partners to rekindle sexual intimacy.
Financial difficulties ― Cancer treatment can cause financial hardships, contributing to stress and anxiety or forgoing or delaying medical treatment. If financial barriers are interfering with recommended care, patients should ask their care team about resources that may be available.