5 Things to Know About Survivorship

by Brittany McNabb

Relay No More Cancer

Background: WhatNext.com is an online support network developed in partnership with the American Cancer Society that helps help cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers gain firsthand insight into living with cancer and connect with others facing a similar diagnosis. Members of WhatNext.com are sometimes referred to as "WhatNexters."

The American Cancer Society says that there are now more than 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States. Survivorship begins at the time of diagnosis and goes on throughout your entire life; so if you are 1 of 14 million and approaching long-term survivorship, here are some things you may want to know.

For more information on survivorship, read this article on Facts and Figures on Survivorship from the American Cancer Society.

1. A survivorship care plan should be established with your doctor.

Develop A Survivorship Care Plan

via connect.ons.org

A survivorship care plan is an individualized set of guidelines that will help monitor and maintain your health. The American Cancer Society has a page dedicated to different types of care plans. LIVESTRONG recently published an article on the importance of a survivorship care plan.

In 2012 the American College of Surgeons released a new Commission on Cancer accreditation standards that "ensure that key elements of quality cancer care are provided to every person with cancer who is treated in a CoC-Accredited facility." As said by Stephen Edge, MD, FACS, Chair of the Commission on Cancer, “The changing landscape of cancer patient care motivated us to develop new standards to directly address patient concerns. These standards enhance the focus of care so that it is much more than a defined structure of clinical treatment.” These new standards are supported by the American Cancer Society, the Cancer Support Community, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, and LIVESTRONG

They include three main areas of patient support. That means that every patient should be offered:
- A patient navigation process to address health care disparities and barriers to care.
- Screening patients for psychosocial distress.
- A survivorship care plan that documents care received and seeks to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.

Journey Forward can help you establish your survivorship care plan by giving you survivorship planning tools, sample plans, and patient testimonials. 

2. Healthy habits still matter.

Healthy Habits Exercise

via webmd.com

Some WhatNexters say that even when they are declared "cancer free," their health is still their main focus. After treatment can be a good time to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent other health problems that could come up after cancer. Healthy habits can include nutrition and staying active.

For more information on healthy habits during survivorship, the American Cancer Society published an article on the possible effects of better nutrition and exercise habits as a cancer survivor .

3. Follow-up cancer care is important.

Follow Up Cancer Care

via colourbox.com

Some cancer patients have been known to get lost in the celebration of being a survivor and neglecting their follow-up care. Doctors say that survivorship is not a passive sport and that survivors must still play an active role in their health as they move on towards long-term survival.

"It is important that survivors feel validated and normalized after a cancer diagnosis, throughout treatment, and beyond,” says Tracy Rode, Director of Client Services at PearlPoint Cancer Support, a nonprofit organization that provides free supportive services to adults impacted by cancer. “Personalized guidance can make all the difference in a cancer journey. It is important that adults impacted by cancer address all areas of survivorship with confidence." 
(You can visit PearlPoint's Facebook page by following this link.)

4. Don't forget about emotional support. 

Emotional Support

via wellcommons.org

Some WhatNexters struggle with the "new normal" as they exit treatment. It may help you to move on from active treatment if you continue to have an emotional support group. This can come from family, friends, a support group, or a counselor. You can find a counselor by searching local churches that offer counseling, asking the staff at your cancer center, or looking online for counselors in your area.

5. You might feel lost at first.

Cancer Survivor Woman

via cancer.org

Some WhatNexters, when finished with cancer treatment, say that it is hard to get back to their "old life." Some say that they experience celebration and excitement but at the same time can feel lost and emotional. Know that all those feelings can be normal and that it might take time to set up a new routine. It might be helpful to read what other WhatNexters have said about finding inner peace and staying positive during and after cancer treatment.

We also have two blog posts on the site that share the stories of how two different WhatNexters found their "new normal." The first is called 'Don't Be Afraid of Your New Normal' from Lisa Lathrop, a survivor of undifferentiated leukemia (AML); she has been out of active treatment for over five years. The second is from Jay Thomas, a four time cancer survivor of bone cancer who published a book called "A Call to Faith: The Journey of a Cancer Survivor."

"I am now trying to figure out my post-cancer life and it is a struggle. I thought I would snap back to my old normal after my last treatment in November. I was starting to feel really happy again. It was as if I had forgotten what it was like to be my old happy self. I find myself easily frustrated or anxious. It's like I've spent the last 14 months in a bunker. I'm coming up for air and I see an apocalyptic skyline and I think, "What the blazes did I just go through?? What now?" The only thing I've learned so far is that I need to be kind to me and realize this will take some time. I can regain it in baby steps." - mcshap

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