After the Treatments, Life Begins

 

After the Treatments, Life BeginsBreast cancer changes your life and the lives of all those around you.  But after the months or even years of treatments are finished and you’ve survived, life doesn’t magically return to normal.  Just as the cancer itself was a transition, so to is the aftermath.  Everything feels so different and it’s common to wonder if there truly is life after breast cancer.  Good news: the answer is a resounding YES!

Picking up life where you left off is never easy, especially after enduring chemotherapy and radiation.  Each round leaves you more exhausted than the last, and after it’s all over, it takes time for your body to return to its pre-cancer norms.  A good metric: it will take at least as long to recover from the treatment as it took you to go through it from start (that first abnormal mammogram) to finish.  Patience got you through the hard part, and it will get you through the recovery process as well.

What about the damage?  Whether you’re talking permanent scars on your body, or emotional scars invisible to others, cancer treatments change us forever.  Late effects from cancer treatment such as fatigue, insomnia, early onset of menopause, and even depression and emotional distress affect each of us differently.  Make sure you talk regularly with your physician, especially if symptoms persist or worsen with time.

It is equally important to help others understand that just because your treatments are over, you aren’t going to be able to jump back into life immediately. At the end of the treatments you feel the weakest.  Make sure your family members and co-workers know that it will take time for you to ease back into that former life, and don’t be afraid to turn down requests you find too difficult.  Each breast cancer survivor heals at her own rate, so let your physical and emotional states guide what you do when it comes to work and leisure.

Bring this same mindset to your own personal life.  Make a list of your own priorities and then delegate anything you feel is important but are unable to handle to friends and loved ones.  Let less-important tasks slide while you recover ―it’s more important to wash the laundry than to make sure it’s all folded perfectly, after all.  Much of the work needed to get back to normal will fall on your close friends and loved ones, but you’ll all need a break from time to time ―don’t push yourself too hard too fast

Finally, remember that no matter how long it takes, you will get there.  Knowing and educating yourself and those closest to you makes a critical difference.  With the help of family and friends, and the greater cultural understanding of what a cancer diagnosis means, getting your life back on track has never been easier.  That’s not to say it will be smooth sailing and hassle-free.  As the saying goes, “Cancer may feel like a life sentence, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris was born in Europe but has lived in the US for many years. He attended college both in Europe and the US and completed medical school at the University of Texas. Residency and fellowship in oncology was completed at Baylor. Read More...
Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton

Dr. Chris Charlton