Finding Our Way When Active Treatment Ends

Have you finished active cancer treatment and found yourself struggling to celebrate, feeling overwhelmed about answering the question: what now? Or perhaps you are still in active treatment, and have been told about the emotional challenges that come with treatment ending.

If you have answered yes, you are not alone.  Let’s take a peek at why this might be happening and why you may want to consider attending the upcoming survivorship discussion.

Let’s recap.  After hearing the words “You have cancer”, you entered into intense period of treatment, in which attending doctor’s appointments becomes like a full time job. Your body almost feels like it has become public property, for the amount of time that it is poked, prodded, examined and received intervention. With good fortune, you have hopefully had an attentive and responsive medical team, plus received support from family, friends, and community to help you and your family to survive the ordeal. You have been doing active treatment to address a serious problem, and while the side effects may have been draining, it still feels like you are working on a solution, which feels empowering.

And all of the sudden, it’s done.

This period of intense focus, numerous appointments, and intervention has ended, and hopefully you are in a place of remission. You are relieved, as well as your community of support, but now you are in a place of unanticipated confusion, asking yourself, what just happened to me? The adrenaline that you used to “stay the course” has begun to dissipate, and in its wake are the thoughts, feelings, experiences that you couldn’t fully process because you needed to make it through the process.

Frequently loved ones don’t understand because they are just so happy that it is done and that now everyone can get “back to life, back to reality”. While your support system might assume that things are done, in fact there is much work to be done in order to heal physically and emotionally from cancer.

Cancer treatment is not fun, but generally there is a game plan for treatment and how side effects will be managed. The concreteness of a cancer treatment plan can feel like a life preserver that keeps your head above water.

Survivorship plans are created once active treatment ends, but it is often up to the individual to figure out how to actualize them.  Unlike the various tests and tools we have to measure and dissect cancer, there is no objective measure for how far along someone is in the healing process. No one can take a tube of blood from your arm and come back with a diagnostic report: 5% chemo brain, 15% fatigue, 20% PSTD, 30% reduction in physical side effects, 50% emotionally healed… and so forth.

It may seem like a daunting task, which is why the Cancer Community Center is hosting the upcoming discussion, Back to Life, Back to Reality?!? to be held on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 5:30pm. This workshop is designed to increase understanding about the emotional and physical needs of the post-active treatment phase, offer specific suggestions of how to break down the survivorship needs and goals, and identify who you might want to consider adding to your post-treatment recovery team.

The discussion will be lead by two local therapists who are also cancer survivors themselves, Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, of Creative Transformations, and Beth Eilers, LCSW, of Healthful CounselingWe hope you can join us. We strongly encourage you to register in advance by clicking here.

— Post written by Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC