You're in Remission: What Next?

by Brittany McNabb

Remission What Next Life After 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."

Once you achieve remission you might not know what to do next. Survivorship could be met with celebration but also trepidation. You have been fighting cancer and now there is nothing to fight; your new normal can include changes with work, family, daily routine, and overall attitude about life. 

Goodbye To Peopel Via Becausepeoplematter

via becausepeoplematter.com

"Getting back to normal life after cancer is challenging. Sometimes it feels like people and the world expect us to be fine. I am working on taking really good care of myself mind-body-spirit and talking about my recovery as needed to those I trust. It takes time and patience for the fears and memories of it to fade I think. It's a day at a time too and normal life feels more normal slowly but surely." - libby

Acs Relay Event

via relayforlife.org

"Once your care team lets you fly from the nest, so to speak, a whole new array of emotions and fears start to crop up - you're no longer being so closely held, so who's watching the store? Every small symptom translates into the anxiety of recurrence. Everyone around you more or less expects you to return to normal, but internally, the fight never ends. Sometimes we forget that we have a responsibility to be active partners in our ongoing care as we enter survivorship." - baridirects

Prepare for a new normal. 

Love From Family And Friends.Jpeg W=545

via pinterest.com

The transition from treatment to post-treatment can be tricky. You go from fighting everyday, attending treatments, and being on high alert to moving into the groove of life after cancer. WhatNexters say that finding a new normal can be a process that takes patience and acceptance

"I have changed so much along the way. I don't let the little things bother be anymore, but I feel that I'm so different now and I have lost my sense of direction. I fought like a warrior and now that I'm a survivor I feel lost. But I continue to put one foot in front of the other as I figure out my new life after cancer." - HollyGolightly

"My "new normal" is learning to be on guard but not to be paranoid about the cancer returning. My "new normal" can get discouraging with the lingering effects but I can also laugh at myself and continue to find constants in my life." - JennyMiller

Finding ways to resolve feelings about your "new normal."

The Mayo Clinic, in a guide about cancer survivors and managing emotions after treatment, highlights some main negative emotional repercussions of life after treatment. Some include fear of recurrence, stress of everyday life, depression and anxiety, self-consciousness, survivor's guilt, and loneliness. It is very common for survivors to ask their doctor about seeing a counselor after treatment or joining a support group. No matter which of these feelings you may have, you are not alone. Additionally, here are some suggestions from WhatNexters on ways to resolve those feelings.

Dont Dwell On Regrets

via helpguide.org

- If you feel lost, focus on the ones you love to help you through the transition.

"I just finished chemo two weeks ago and trying to adjust to the fact that I am considered in remission. I think anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer is forever changed. I am taking one day at a time. I am grateful for these good days and hope for many more but in the back of my mind is the 'what if' of recurrence. This site has taught me that cancer can be treated as a chronic disease. We can only do the best we can. For me there is a new normal - I am more aware and have a greater appreciation of those close to me, am trying to change to a healthier lifestyle, and have more of a don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today attitude." - Lynne-I-Am

- If you feel overwhelmed returning to work, keep your expectations moderate in the beginning. 

"My advice to people just entering remission that are returning to work would be to keep your expectations moderate so you will not be disappointed when you return to work. If anything, fatigue for awhile may be the norm. If you do not have a crock pot, think about investing in one - knowing you have a nice, nutritious, aromatic meal waiting for you at the end of the day is a godsend, there are wonderful crockpot cookbooks and you can find anything online that appeals to you. Be sure you get everything you can done at night so mornings are not chaotic. You might find it isn't as bad as you thought it might be." - Gabba

- If you feel fatigued, listen to signs from your body. 

"I remember to celebrate my victories and praise and spoil myself as much as I can. I feel I deserve it. I am not so demanding on yourself and take one step at a time and listen to my body's signs and signals. If I am tired I rest. I try my best to enjoy life and surround myself by loved ones as much as I can." - glam

- If you feel alone, reach out to others that will "get it."

Some WhatNexters find that it is gratifying after cancer treatment to give back; it gives them a sense of purpose, fills their time, and allows them to help other cancer patients from the unique position of being a survivor. Whether it is volunteering or mentoring cancer patients or just communicating with others on WhatNext that have been through the same thing, reaching out to others that "get it" may make the transition into life after cancer easier.

Race For The Cure Via Miamiherald.Com

via miamiherald.com

Don't expect your life after cancer treatment to be the same as it was before treatment.

Many WhatNexters notice that they have attitude changes, priority changes, and changes with work life and family. This can be a natural result of having cancer and some say it helps to throw out their idea of the "old normal" and work towards their new life.

Loved Ones Cancer

via pathwayshealth.org

"It's been 14 months since treatments ended and I am still trying to figure out "my new normal" but have let go of the search for "my old normal." I am actually enjoying many new aspects of "my new normal" such as the heightened sense of well being, love, patience, kindness, appreciation...and the list goes on and on." - RobinH

Cancer Walk

via google.com

"I spent 47 years being too busy for so many things now I remember birthdays, send get well cards, tell my husband thank you for everything he does. My "new normal" finds me with a smaller circle of close friends and family among other things. If my "new" self could tell my "old" one a thing or two, I think it would be: 1. Call your mother! 2. Appreciate your good health and protect it. 3. Cherish every day. 4. Don't just feel love...show it. I would not have these new perspective changes if I was stuck on trying to get my old life back." - Myungclas

American Cancer Society Survivorship

via makingstrideswalk.org

"Life after frontline treatment still had me dealing with side effects like neuropathy and extreme fatigue. I had to find a balance between life before treatment and life after treatment. It is difficult for a lot of people to realize that we are still healing even after treatment has ended. It takes some time to get back into the routine outside the "bubble" of treatment. This journey has taught me to make sure that I take the time for myself that I need for whatever reason each day - it has deepened my faith and showed me just how strong I am." - KimmieJo

Cancer Survivors Walk

via yourmindyourbody.org

Below are some questions that other WhatNexters have asked about coping with their new normal and life after cancer. 

What does the "new normal" mean for you?

Did anyone have a hard time adjusting to "normal" life after chemotherapy?

My treatment is ending and I will be returning to work next month after a 6 month hiatus. Any suggestions as to how to make this transition while minimizing stress?

When does life feel normal again after cancer?

Is it normal to have a breakdown after treatment is finished?

In addition to focusing on dealing with the emotional side of remission, it is important to set up a survivorship care plan with your doctor. Many hospitals and cancer centers provide survivorship care plans.

If you've been diagnosed with cancer, take a minute to join the WhatNext community and find others near you who have been in your shoes. There’s no better way to get first-hand insights into living with cancer than by connecting with others who are currently doing just that.

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