While cancer affects patients physically, it can also impact a patient on a mental level, resulting in emotional distress, anxiety, and depression— both during treatment and after. During treatment, your primary concerns most likely revolved around your treatment plan, the side effects you could experience, and of course, how it was impacting the people you care about. But as a cancer survivor, it’s likely those concerns have changed.
Now that you’ve beaten cancer you can take that big sigh of relief. But, that doesn’t mean you’ll be totally concern-free. In fact, feelings of anxiety and stress can sometimes be worse after treatment ends. With less focus on your physical health, there’s more time to focus on your new normal— and oftentimes, this leads to another wave of emotions including worry, sadness, and fear. Are there steps you can take to regain a more positive and less anxious mental state?
Common Concerns and Feelings After Cancer Treatment
At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, we know that it’s common for cancer survivors to struggle with several challenges at once. Challenges such as:
- Worrying that the cancer will come back, and if it does, where might it reappear?
- Not being as socially active as you once were. Gathering in groups can sometimes leave you vulnerable to conversations about your health that you aren’t quite ready to have.
- Post-cancer body image. Your body could look different now due to surgery, weight gain, or weight loss.
- The inability to remember things. This lingering side effect, called “chemo brain,” can be frightening to those who experience it.
- Feeling alone after treatment. During your cancer treatment, you may have been surrounded by helpers— doctors, nurses, friends, and family who drove you places, ran errands for you, cooked for you, and helped you maintain your home. Being independent again can leave you feeling overwhelmed and even depressed that the support system you had during treatment isn’t there for you as often as before.
- Being concerned about your financial situation, whether it’s related to medical bills or going back to work.
Surviving cancer is certainly a relief. But it could take a while for you to feel truly happy again— and that’s OK. These negative feelings and emotions you may be feeling after cancer are common and completely normal.
Tips for Improving Your Mental Health After Cancer Treatment
You might find it challenging at first, but in time, your mental health can be improved once cancer treatment is over. We hope these tips will help get you started:
- Accept that your feelings are normal and that it’s OK to have them.
- Reach out to those closest to you telling them about your feelings and concerns. There’s no reason you should move forward on your own and your friends and family can be a real asset when it comes to trying to feel better.
- Have a discussion with your general practitioner or cancer care team at your next appointment, letting them know how you’ve been feeling. If they think medicine might help, they can write a prescription.
- Choose one or two things at a time that you can start to work on to relieve some of the stress. Make sure to focus on things you are in control of, such as your work situation or getting back to a healthy weight.
- Consider talking to other survivors. Support groups are available as well as other support services for patients and survivors including meditation or yoga classes, art therapy, journaling, and more.
Visit RMCC’s Patient Resources page to find a support program.