With a cancer diagnosis comes a new set of physical and mental challenges. Living with symptoms, treatments and side effects can sometimes become a full-time job as your priorities shift and your normal life gets put on hold.
But what happens when the dust settles, the treatments end and you become a cancer survivor? When a sickness that’s affected every aspect of your life suddenly moves to the back burner, you may be left wondering what’s next. Learn how to take your experiences and move on with your life, full of intention, purpose and courage.
Surviving vs. Thriving
Surviving cancer can put a lot of things into perspective, especially your mortality. And you may be surprised to find that rejoining your family and community can sometimes be more difficult than you’d think.
Many survivors face unexpected obstacles when they step back into their lives. But be assured this is all a part of finding your “new normal.” Taking control of your recovery isn’t always easy and without guidance you may struggle to find your footing. We’re here to help you not only survive your transition, but also thrive in your future journey.
Face Your Fears
Many survivors deal with long-term struggles and effects from treatment. Some of these problems include:
Depression and Anxiety
Lingering anger or sadness can be hard to shake, and without proper treatment, these emotions can develop into serious conditions like depression or anxiety.
Fear of Recurrence
Fearing your cancer may come back is understandable and can be overwhelming. And you may see every little ache and pain as a sign of a bigger problem.
Your experiences may make it difficult for you to relate to others, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Certain cancer treatments can alter your appearance. These changes can affect your hair, skin and weight, among other things. You may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by these differences.
Recognizing your fears is the first step to getting your life back on track. It’s absolutely fine to be afraid — you just can’t let that fear control your life. Celebrate your survivorship by finding pride in what you’ve overcome.
Boost Your Physical Health
Cancer treatment can leave you feeling weak and exhausted. Regaining your strength and physical well-being after treatment will give you confidence in your recovery and help you thrive moving forward.
Research has also shown that continued wellness efforts during recovery may lower your risk of recurrence for certain types of cancer.
Nurture Your Body
Cancer can drain us of important nutrients and strength. Refuel your body by eating right and focusing on your fitness.
What you eat can help restore your energy and support the health of your body. Try to include foods like these in your diet to boost your recovery:
- Berries, such as raspberries and blueberries
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Lean meats, such as chicken, turkey and seafood
- Nuts like walnuts and almonds
- Tea, especially green tea
While food is your fuel, exercise will rebuild your strength and confidence. Cancer can exhaust you physically, so take your time integrating fitness back into your daily routine. Start small and listen to your body.
Communicate With Your Doctor
Your physician will provide essential resources to help improve your day-to-day life. Information about local survivor groups and tips for boosting your well-being can often be found at your doctor’s office. Your doctor is here to help you live your life to the fullest, so don’t be afraid to voice your questions or concerns.
Improve Your Mental Health
Many survivors feel overwhelmed by the pressures of returning to their normal lives. Monitor your mental health and find new hobbies, interests and social connections to give you joy and purpose.
Coping with stress and depression is one of the greatest difficulties you may face as a survivor. Developing healthy strategies to combat stress will help restore peace and balance to your mind and spirit.
Try a few simple strategies to ease your anxieties:
Get Plenty of Sleep: Rest is vital to a full recovery. Your body needs time to recover after everything you’ve been through.
Keep a Journal: You may find it difficult to talk to others about your battle with cancer. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to get those frustrations out of your head.
Make Time to Relax: Taking a little time for yourself will help clear your mind and calm those racing thoughts. Consciously set aside time to unwind. Read a book, take a bath or schedule a spa day. Give yourself something to look forward to.
Practice Deep Breathing: Finding a moment to simply take a few deep breaths will instantly help you unwind and organize your thoughts.
Stay Busy: One of the easiest ways to get out of your head is to leave the house for a couple hours and be active. Join a group, meet up with a friend or just walk around the block.
Talk to a Friend: Sometimes the quickest way to relieve stress is to just vent. Voicing your concerns or struggles aloud can provide clarity and peace.
Communicate With Others
Talking through your fears and challenges can bring you inner peace. Speaking to others gives you the opportunity to come to terms with your experience. If you find it difficult to connect with those around you, reach out to support systems in your community for help and comfort. These include:
- Cancer support groups
- Online forums for cancer survivors
- Seminars and conventions
- Your church community
You don’t have to feel alone in your journey. Sharing with others is a crucial step in easing your anxieties, and you can always reach out to your doctor or minister for additional guidance.
Discover What Brings You Joy
Recovery can drain most of your energy and strength, so stepping back into old roles might not be as easy as you expected. Instead of focusing on everything you can’t do, focus on the little accomplishments that bring you happiness throughout the day, such as:
- Checking out a local museum
- Going on a small trip
- Joining a book club
- Reading a book
- Starting a journal
- Trying a new recipe
Get Involved With Your Community
Improve your well-being by becoming part of something bigger. Getting involved in the community also keeps your mind and body active. Find something in your comfort zone, such as:
- Attending a city council meeting
- Checking out local shops
- Going to church
- Introducing yourself to new people
- Joining a local class or group
- Supporting a local charity or fundraiser
Thrive After Cancer
Being a cancer survivor means different things to different people, but celebrating each incredible, unique journey can bring us all together. Take pride in your survivorship by rebuilding your body, mind and spirit. Let your experiences motivate you rather than tear you down, so you can do more than just survive cancer — you will thrive.
Learn more about how we support you and your whole family during your cancer care journey.