Congratulations, you're finished treatment! ....Now what?
Of course you're happy to be finished, but you've gone from seeing your healthcare team regularly, even daily, to not at all.
It's normal to feel anxious and alone as you wait for your follow up appointment, and it might not be for another few months. The best thing to do is to focus on healing from treatment and regaining control of your life.
Everyone has their own way of doing this, but a good start would be to focus on your overall health. Have a look at your diet, lifestyle, and mental health, and start making healthy changes in order to keep your cancer in remission.
Not all cancers will return, and if cancer cells do survive treatment it could take years before they develop into identifiable disease. A healthy lifestyle will decrease your chances of recurrence.
So where should I start? …Begin with the following recommendations, even if it means taking small steps towards them.
Opt for organic, non-processed foods. Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible (preferably raw), as well as foods high in antioxidants.
Drink plenty of water! This is easier said than done, but adding pure lemon, lime or a few pieces of your favorite fruit to your water makes it more exciting.
Things to eliminate for good: alcohol, processed meat, deep fried foods, saturated fats, smoking cigarettes or second-hand smoke, tanning beds, charred or burnt food, soda (including diet soda or drinks), artificial sweeteners.
Things to limit (within moderation): anything with refined sugar (this includes desserts, sugary drinks, and certain salad dressings or sauces- always read the ingredients!), alcohol (some may argue with me that you should never drink alcohol, but if your one vice is wine (such is mine) then indulge in moderation.
Exercise to the best of your ability and move as much as possible! The more you exercise, the more muscle you have, and therefore the more energy you will have. Exercise can also help minimize stress and anxiety, which is pillar throughout your cancer journey. Studies have also shown that exercising increases the production of immune cells and adrenaline in the body. Both of which are known to fight cancer cells. Even if you have limited mobility, any movement is better than no movement.
If you haven’t already, listen to or read about the stories of others who have been in your situation. Joining a support group is probably the easiest approach since there are thousands of options for online groups. If support groups aren’t your thing, working with a cancer coach will provide more customized support. A cancer coach will support you through all of the challenges that come along with treatment and beyond. They will also help you to overcome personal challenges and improve your lifestyle.
Even if you don’t feel stressed, stress can be a sneaky bugger! It can manifest in uncanny ways, and show up when you least expect it. It can happen when someone asks you how you’re doing and you end up breaking down. It can come about in the form of a panic attack which can be triggered by underlying subconscious stress. It can come in the form of nightmares or PTSD. After finishing cancer treatment, many people don’t actually realize how much stress or anxiety they’re holding on to. A support group or personal therapist can help you expose these feelings in a safe, non-judgmental space.