Life after cancerAccording to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, during and immediately after treatment and through the balance of his or her life. For cancer survivors, the journey after treatment ends can be a joyful experience. For others, new challenges or anxieties can arise — including the fear of cancer recurrence, loneliness or health problems stemming from rigorous cancer treatments.

After treatment, cancer survivors should be patient with themselves as they navigate through their changed life. Though many survivors say the fear of cancer recurrence decreases as time passes, there may be certain events that may stir this worry up again. Such events include:

  • Follow-up doctor visits or certain medical tests
  • Anniversary events, like the day you were diagnosed or ended treatment
  • Birthdays
  • Illness of a family member
  • Learning that someone you know has cancer or a recurrence
  • The death of someone who had cancer

Each patient at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center is provided with a survivorship care plan toward the end of treatment to help manage their health history and follow-up care moving forward. These plans are created to help patients not only minimize fear after treatment but also embrace healthy choices throughout their cancer experience and after treatment.

I encourage all cancer survivors to think through some of these tips:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle to minimize any lingering physical side effects from treatment.
  • Quit smoking (if you do smoke) and if you don’t smoke, avoid being around secondhand smoke to lower your risk of developing a second cancer as well as heart disease and stroke.
  • Stay connected with friends, family, and other survivors to uplift your emotional well-being and have a support system available (as you feel you need – remember you control your own boundaries)
  • Keep in touch with your health care team and go to your regularly scheduled check-ups and screenings.

Once treatment ends, cancer survivors may need psychosocial support programs to help them navigate difficult feelings about their cancer experience. The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute’s psychosocial support team focuses on resolving multiple aspects of distress, as well as practical issues of treatment and lifestyle.

Some of the support programs that the Todd Cancer Institute offers include:

  • Cancer Coaching Program
  • Pastoral & Spiritual Care
  • Healing through Creativity Workshop
  • Writing through the Cancer Journey

Patients can work with their oncologist or nurse practitioner and request these support services throughout the course of their cancer treatment and survivorship care. Survivors can also find survivorship groups to help share their stories and guide one another through their new beginnings.