The "Now What" After Cancer Treatment

It’s an amazing day. You stand up and get dressed, finally getting to wear clothes that don’t have a huge crack in the back. Or, you walk away from the leather chair in the chemo ward for the last time.

Becoming “free” of cancer is a day all survivors long for – it’s the goal. The finish line in sight.

But for many of us, once we “cross the finish line,” we aren’t necessarily jumping up and down at the victory like we thought we would. Instead, something unexpected happens.

It hits us.

Whether it’s our hospital security blanket that gets taken away or just the reality of “now what’s” — walking away from cancer treatment as a survivor can be just as overwhelming or scary as the day you entered the journey.

How to cope with the after-cancer blues

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Me (Danielle), Anjee Davis and Devin James at the Call-on Congress training advocates who want to DO SOMETHING with their cancer experience.

We receive calls to our Answer Line and participate in many online cancer discussions about the “now what’s” after cancer treatment. It’s an interesting feeling of survivor guilt.

We SHOULD be joyous and happy that treatment is over. But instead, we’re scared. We’re sad. Maybe a little mad. And downright overwhelmed with life.

I know this journey well and wanted to offer others some advice from survivor-to-survivor. Below are specific ways for colon and rectal cancer patients to find support.

If you need more tips, check out my post on 10 Ways to Emotionally Beat Cancer or hit up Vanessa with our Answer Line.

But for starters — here are a few things I recommend:

1. Know You’re Not Crazy.

Cancer isn’t just a physical battle. It’s emotional, mental, relational and spiritual, too. So it’s not unusual that once your physical fight is over, the other aspects begin to kick in. Sometimes, they’re even harder to deal with. So — if you finish treatment and have a sudden sadness or fright — know that it’s normal. Survivorship is a journey, not just a milestone you’re shooting for.

2. Find support.

Support groups are extremely valuable. It’s not just sitting around and singing kumbaya (although there’s nothing wrong with that.) But having someone else who knows what you mean brings much healing. In colorectal cancer, here are a few ways you can find support and others to lean on:

There are a host of other groups (not even colon cancer-specific) in local communities and online who can provide support. Call us if you’d like more information at 1-877-427-2111.

3. Go for a run.

Have you seen the studies on exercise? Not only does it bring physical benefits, but exercising can provide you with mental stress relief and emotional healing. There are many colon cancer runs around the country. Check out some of these events to see if there’s a colon cancer race or event near you!

Outside of the colon-specific races, there are groups who take cancer survivors on hikes. Fishing trips. Kayaking adventures. World travels. The sky’s the limit. If you’d like more info or specific resources, let us know!

4. Use your Experience.

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Dad and daughter (both survivors) using their experience to make an impact on policy and research funding at Call-on Congress.

Sometimes the “now what” anxiety is eased by discovering a mission. Making sense of a diagnosis and survivorship can come through finding a way to get involved and help others.

Here are a few ways you can “do something” with your colon cancer diagnosis with Fight Colorectal Cancer:

These are just a few of the ways to use your colon cancer experience to make a difference.

5. Give yourself a Day …. or Month … or Year.

Last, give yourself the time you need to soak it all in and try to find a peace. You don’t have to like the fact you had cancer or even be appreciative of it. But, there is a way to be at peace with it.

While you might feel the pressure to throw a party, share your story, become an advocate, host a fundraiser and more …. know that if you’re not ready yet, that’s OK.

Sit on the couch. Dive into a TV show. Take a nap. Go to dinner. And just be thankful to be alive.

Even that one small step will provide an immense amount of healing and give you direction for the new road ahead.