After you’ve completed your breast cancer treatment, you may find that it’s a struggle to adjust to your “new normal.” Your friends and family might expect you to bounce back and not realize the physical and emotional toll going through cancer continues to have on you, long after you’ve had that last treatment or surgery. In fact, many people find the end of treatment the most difficult stage of the journey to navigate. If you’re having trouble coping with moving beyond cancer, know that you are not alone. Here are some tips to help get you through it:
1. Don’t rush. You might feel pressure to return to work and jump right in, because people expect you to get back to it now that you’re “finished.” Take it slow and don’t be afraid to ask for medical approval to take some extra time off. Relax and reboot – you deserve it. When you do return to work, find out if it’s possible to start with part-time hours, or a gradual return-to-work plan. This will help you ease back in to your routine without exhausting yourself.
2. Find support. Talking about how you’re feeling now that you’ve finished your treatment can be very helpful to your recovery. Whether it’s a support group or a therapist, don’t be afraid to seek out help as you work your way through this stage.
3. Listen to your body. Unfortunately, some side effects have a tendency to linger after treatment is over. If you are taking hormone therapy such as Tamoxifen, you might have some long-term side effects such as bone pain or hot flashes. Some of these side effects may cause stress and discomfort. Talk to your doctor about solutions to deal with ongoing side effects and make sure to communicate your concerns, even after your treatment has finished. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
4. Manage your anxiety. After you finish treatment, you might find that your anxiety levels actually increase. Fears over having a recurrence may overwhelm your thoughts, and you may find difficulty adjusting to no longer being constantly monitored by your healthcare team. This anxiety should lessen in the future, but in the meantime, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope. Journaling, exercising, and meditation are a few methods that may help lower your stress levels and help you deal. There are also programs that have been created specifically for cancer patients, such as The Healing Journey. If you find your anxiety is interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor.