When your loved one’s cancer treatment is over, you can begin to go back to more of a “normal” life, but most people feel that their life is not the same after cancer.
The post-cancer world is a time of mixed emotions. You are happy that treatment has ended. You also may feel a bit lost—during treatment, you were busy, you had a purpose to every waking moment. Now you may feel empty, and may not know what to do next.
Whatever you are feeling is normal, and these feelings will take some time to sort out.
Learn more about:
Transitioning to survivorship
Your loved one is a “survivor”—and will be for the rest of his or her life. Learn more about transitioning to survivorship.
Be patient with your loved one, as he or she tries to figure out the “new normal.” He or she also needs time to adjust to life after cancer. Some feelings you may experience during this time:
All these feelings are normal. You will not be happy all the time, and should not expect yourself to be. You may be happy and thankful, sad and nervous—sometimes all at once. However, if the feelings of sadness last for more than a few weeks, this could be a sign of anxiety or depression. Talk to your doctor if you think you might have depression.
You may feel that since treatment is over, you do not need any more help from friends and family. Please remember that adjusting to this phase in your life takes time. It may make you feel better to get some help and support from your friends and family. Perhaps you still need help with errands and chores, or maybe you would just like your friends to be there to listen.
Tell people what you need. The help may not be as quick to come, now that treatment has ended. If you ask, most likely your friends and family will be more than happy to help you.
Having help in the home (respite help) is available after treatment as well. Talk with your loved one about this, and find out what things respite helpers do for survivors and their families. Make an appointment with our social work services to discuss respite help.
During treatment, your thoughts may have been focused on your loved one’s care. Now that treatment is over, you may be worried about your risk of getting cancer. Remember that you cannot catch cancer from your loved one. Also, most cancers are not genetic.
There are a few common cancers that are genetic—breast, colon and prostate. If there is a strong family history of cancer, you may want to consider genetic testing. Discuss this option with your doctor, as well as things you can do now to lower your risk, such as stopping smoking or losing weight.
Though the treatment has ended, chances are, the side effects are still lingering. Each patient recovers at a different pace. Keep in mind that the slow recovery time may make your loved one frustrated or angry. Here are some common side effects your loved one may experience:
For more information on managing side effects, please contact Palliative Care, at 202-877-3251.
The cancer experience may have changed how your family and friends communicate.
Some common feelings that occur after cancer treatments:
You and your loved one need to be open about these issues. Continue to talk and listen to each other, even if talking is difficult. Remember recovery takes time, for everyone. You may want to talk to one of our counselors, in Cancer Support Services.
Children may expect that once treatment is finished, Mom or Dad can play with them as they did in the past. Be honest with your children. Tell your children what to expect. If your family needs to cut back on expenses, explain that to your children while not giving them too much information. And as always, listen. If you do not know what to say to them, give them time to talk to you.
It is a good idea to review these ideas with your children:
You may be relieved to get back to work. Or, if you are still caring for your loved one, you may find it stressful. Either way, you may be tired, and it may be hard to focus on your job. You may experience:
Talk to your employer before you return to work. Find out if there is a company policy for employees who are caring for a sick family member. Or perhaps you and your employer can work out an arrangement, like working from home or working fewer hours, which will allow you to re-enter the work force at your pace. Be upfront and honest about your situation.
The life you and your loved one shared may never be exactly as it was before the cancer. But you survived!
Contact us in Cancer Support Services at 202-877-CARE (2273).