You are here: Home Colorectal Cancer Post Treatment 0 ... Colorectal ...
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Colorectal Cancer: 0-6, 6 +: Day To Day Living: Stages 0,I

Now that you have completed treatment, consider taking some time to think about how your diagnosis has changed your perspective on life – if at all.

  • It is not unusual for an experience with colorectal cancer to change one's perspective. Possible changes run the gamut from what is important and not important in life, personal relationships. what to do for work,  the balance between work and personal time, long term goals - to something as simple as deciding to repaint a few walls at home. Alternatively, the experience may not change your perspective at all. There is no right or wrong here.
  • Consider taking some quiet time to think about this subject to help pull together changes you may not have focused on.
  • Think about how, if at all, you want to act as a response to those thoughts. If the action you are considering is a major one, consider holding off acting on it for at least a few months until emotions settle.
  • If your new perspective affects your relationship with friends or family members, talk about your needs. If the change means a relationship no longer fills your needs, give serious thought to changing the relationship.
  • For information, see Couples and Sex, Sexualit y and Intimacy

If You Have A Spouse Or Partner

  • Your spouse or partner is likely to be anxious to regain balance. He or she has likely experienced the same fears you have. However, a spouse or partner may be reluctant to talk about them.
  • It may help to know that the incidence of separation and divorce is no higher for people with cancer than the general population.
  • Don't be surprised if issues and tensions that existed before the diagnosis resurface.
  • Things to do:
    • Talk about each of your feelings and your needs. The two of you have been through a stressful ordeal. Don't think that one conversation will be enough. It will take time to adjust to the new physical you and the emotions that are likely to stay around for a while.
    • Look for time alone together. A post treatment trip is recommended in our Emotion article. Consider taking a post-treatment survival trip together.
    • Work toward a new balance that takes into account both of your needs.
    • Perhaps start intimacy with other methods such as cuddling, or massaging each others' backs. (For tips about sex and intimacy, click here.).
    • If the situation with your spouse or partner is difficult to handle, consider speaking with a counselor or therapist, especially one who has experience in working with couples during a transition period after the end of colorectal cancer treatment. (Ask other people with colorectal cancer for their suggestions about counselor they have found effective).
    • If it appears that things won't work out between you, don't make a definitive move yet. If it makes you feel better, start exploring the pros and cons of splitting up (including speaking with a divorce lawyer). Wait until at least the nine month mark and preferably the twelve month mark before making and acting on a decision.

If you have underage children: As a general matter, children need to be told what is going on. They will likely sense something has changed and think it is their fault. If you tell them, their behavior needs to be watched for changes. Giving children chores helps make them feel involved.

  • Telling Children
    • It is your choice whether to tell children about your health situation. If you do tell, do so in an age appropriate manner. 
    • If you have ongoing needs, it is wise to tell children. They will instinctively know there is a change and think it is something they did.
    • If you do tell:
      • Remind them you are fine now. You see the doctors to keep it that way.
      • Tell them that you will always be honest with them.
      • Under age children do not need to know about your worries about the future, or what could happen.
      • If you err on either side, do it on the side of caring too much.
      • Tell in an age appropriate manner
  • Watch for reactions.
  • Tips for helping children cope 
    • Spend one-on-one time with each child.
    • Encourage each child to talk about how they felt during treatment and how they feel now.
    • Ask teachers to watch for behavioral problems.
    • Prepare to answer the question: “Are you cured?” Be honest. For example, you can say something like: “I am okay now. I’m hopeful that I will stay that way.”
    • For more information, see Children 101.

Relationships with  family, friends and co-workers likely changed. It will take educating people about your continuing needs. It will take time to adjust to the new normal. 

  • Expect relationships to change
    • Just as you have to adjust to life after treatment, the people around you also need time to adjust.
    • Family roles likely shifted during treatment, with other family members taking on more of the chores and responsibility. The same thing may have happened at work. You may still need to depend on others during this time because you are not able to take care of the chores you did before. It can take time to adjust to returning to the norm of the previous family dynamic, or to work through a new norm that works for all members. You may still need to depend on others during this time because you are not able to take care of the chores you did before.Let people know your needs and current capabilities. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
    • Your relationship with friends may also have shifted during your treatment. It can take time for a relationship to readjust, or for you to adjust to the new relationship norm.
    • Relationships are mutual.  It is time for things to no longer just be about you. Start listening to their stories and needs if you haven't been
    • Do not be surprised if problems that existed with family and friends before the diagnosis resurface.
    • If your diagnosed eyes now see things differently than certain friends, be honest with yourself and think about whether the relationship is worth continuing.
  • Educate the people around you about your continuing needs.
    • With most illnesses, when treatment is over, life for everyone returns to normal. An immediate return to life the way it was before your diagnosis is likely what your friends expect.
    • However, this is not generally the case with colorectal cancer. After treatment for colorectal cancer you are likely to be exhausted for a while, both physically and emotionally. Physical symptoms and emotional needs are likely to continue. (For more information, see: Medical Care.)
    • You may feel that you aren't getting the support you need which might make you angry or frustrated. Keep in mind that most people do not know the reality of colorectal cancer. They need to be educated in a manner they understand about your ongoing needs from the cancer or your treatment. 
    • Explain which physical symptoms continue as well as unusual emotions. 
    • Explain that while you are optimistic, colorectal cancer may recur and that this sometimes weighs on you.
    • Talk about the changes you are going through and your needs. 
    • Consider letting friends know you are likely to be anxious before going to medical appointments so they can be supportive during those periods of time.
    • Ask for any help you still need. 
  • Relationship Tips  Here are some ideas that have helped other people recovering from colorectal cancer treatment deal with relationship concerns:
    • Let others know what you are able to do as you heal - and what not to expect you to do. For example:
      • Do not feel that you must keep the house or yard in perfect order because you always did in the past.
      • Help the children in your family understand that it may take a while for you to have the energy you used to have.
    • Talk about your needs. Ask each family member to talk about their needs and concerns. Don't let breast cancer be the 800 pound gorilla in the room that everyone knows is there, but no one talks about.
    • Give yourself time. 
      • You and your family may be able to adjust over time to the changes. 
      • Just being open with each other can help ensure that each person's needs are met.
    • Ask for help when you need it. 
      • Include your underage children when asking for help. It will help children feel as if they are assisting your recovery if they have age appropriate chores to do.
      • Help the children in your family understand that it may take a while for you to have the energy you used to have.
    • Accept help. When friends or family offer to help, say yes. Let them know things that they could do to make your life easier. In this way, you will get the support you need and your loved ones will feel helpful.
    • Keep in contact with friends. 
      • It will help relieve their anxiety about you. 
      • If you do not have time to contact everyone, consider sending out periodic group e mails or posting what is happening on one of the social sites such as Facebook.

To help you feel in control on a daily basis, and to maximize your body's disease fighting abilities, do your best to:

Eat a cancer preventive diet.

  • To help prevent a recurrence of colorectal cancer or the appearance of another cancer, eat healthy with an emphasis on plant sources.
  • There are a variety of sources to learn about a cancer prevention diet. The gold standard is provided by the American Cancer Society. To learn about the diet, click here.   (Also see: Guidelines For The Safe Handling, Cooking And Storage Of Food)
  • In addition, speak with your cancer doctor or a dietitician/nutritionist about a diet that works specifically for your situation, including additional vitamins and supplements. For instance, it is generally recommended to take an aspirin a day to help prevent colorectal cancer. 
  • According to Dr. Mark Pochapin, a gastroenterologist who specializes in colorectal cancer and author of WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT COLORECTAL CANCER:
    • “Keeping tabs on your daily caloric intake is important (for survivors of colorectal cancer), since eating too much food stresses the digestive system. There is some evidence showing that a high level of calories in your diet, regardless of whether the source is fat, carbohydrate, or protein, may favor the development of cancer. In other words, the more food that passes through your colon, the higher your risk. Most people should eat no more than two thousand calories a day – an amount that helps keep pounds from piling on, especially if you stay active and exercise regularly.”
    • “Drinking enough water each day (at least eight glasses of pure water) is vital to the health of your colon – and indeed to your entire digestive system. Water helps separate stool from the mucous lining of your colon, assists in stimulating the muscular movement of your intestines, and keeps material flowing through your system at a health rate.”  Make sure the water is safe to drink.
  • Be cautious about claims that a particular diet, food or supplement can prevent recurrence. Look for scientific proof rather than anecdotal evidence. Check what you find with your oncologist.
  • If eating healthy is a big jump for you:
    • Don’t try to do everything at once. Some experts think it takes as long to break a habit as the amount of time you had the habit. Set goals for yourself and do your best to keep to them. For example, add a vegetable to your normal lunch at least 4 days a week. Then a 5th day. Etc.
    • If you find you are not keeping to your timeline, revise it so you get the feeling of accomplishment while helping your health.
    • For additional information, see:
    • NOTE:  Studies show that we are influenced by the behavior of the people close to us. It is likely to be easier to eat healthy if the people around you eat healthy. Helping your family unit eat healthy is something positive that can come from your cancer experience.

Be active. Exercise.

  • Our article about Exercise describes the importance of exercise, how to exercise smart, how to find programs that could work for you and similar subjects. With respect to colorectal cancer in particular: 
  • Exercise may also help prevent recurrence of colorectal cancer. Recent studies show that lack of physical activity increases the risk of developing colon cancer. This is in line with other studies which show that people who exercise regularly have about a 30-40 percent reduction in their risk of contracting colon cancer. Physical activity improves quality of life and diminishes emotional swings.
  • If you have special needs, there are exercise programs designed for people with cancer throughout the country.
  • How To Sustain Exercise  Exercise can be difficult to sustain over time. Think about techniques to help keep you motivated. For instance:
    • Set up a system that reminds you periodically of why you exercise. For example, a posting on your refrigerator, or an alert that pops up on your computer every few weeks.
    • Find a buddy to exercise with. (One of the advantages of classes or gyms for people with cancer is the company and support of people in a similar situation). Note that an exercise buddy is not necessarily the same as a cancer buddy .
  • Check with your doctor before starting new exercise or increasing current exercise levels.

Get rest.  If you are having difficulty sleeping, click here.

Avoid unnecessary infections.

  • Infections lower your disease fighting immune system’s ability to fight disease.
  • A few techniques have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of infection. For instance:

Reclaim Your Life

  • Treatment can play havoc with your self image including how you see yourself in your relationship, as a sexual partner, physically, and in the work place. Now is a good time to reclaim yourself . If you agree, consider the following steps:
    • Prioritize what you have to do on a daily basis by order of importance. Carry over what doesn't get done from one day to the next.
    • Focus on activities that can have a short term result, particularly with an accompanying sense of accomplishment.
    • Return to those parts of your old routine that still make sense to you. Start slowly and build up as you go.
    • Reassert control over as much of your life as you can.
    • Celebrate being here today and the things you can do. Let go of yesterday and what you were able to do.
    • At work, start taking back activities you may have handed off to other people. 
    • Work on the parts of your to-do list that you let slide. 
    • Keep your limitations in mind. There is a reason people still use the old adage "Rome wasn't built in a day."
  • Get back into your social world at a pace that works for how you feel physically and emotionally. 
    • If you have to go to events before you're ready, showing up for 20 minutes to a half hour lets your host know you care without pushing your limits. 
    • Avoid stressful events and situations until you feel strong enough.
  • Do what you can to make yourself look better, to feel better physically, and to feel okay about your body.
    • To look good, if you haven't participated before, make contact with the American Cancer Society's "Look Good, Feel Better" program. Call 800.ACS.2345.
    • To feel better physically: follow a cancer prevention lifestyle. Take care of your oral health. Do what you can to keep a positive mental attitude.
    • Even if there is no change in your body, your body image may have changed. Take the time to learn to live with the new image. Having a strong body image may help you worry less about how other people react to physical changes. For information, click here.
  • Regain physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is important for human well being. Now that treatment is over, it's time for adults to consider the three letter word: s...e...x. If you don't want to have sex for reasons other than your cancer, that's your choice. However, if you are refraining because of your cancer, or what the treatment did to your face or body, it's time to reexamine the issue. . About sex and intimacy, click here.
  • If you are single: 
    • Start dating again. Don't let cancer define you.
    • When it comes to telling a date or someone you are seeing about your cancer history, there is no right or wrong time. Make an informed decision that works for you.
    • For information, see dating
  • Travel if you want to once you get clearance from your doctor. TSurvivorship A to Z provides guidelines for traveling safely with a health history in Travel and Travel Outside The United States.
    •  If you are traveling with an ostomy, click here.If you have an ostomy: you have a new appliance that may take some adjusting to. Keep in mind that no one can see your appliance through your clothes and you haven’t changed. You can continue all aspects of your life with an ostomy. There are time tested tips for dealing with a changed body image. Click here

Consider getting a pet. Yes, a pet. When you read our information about pets,, you'll understand why.

Work on keeping a positive attitude.  It helps -- including making it more likely you will do what you need to do to help your body heal and be its strongest. To learn how to keep a positive attitude, click here

Thank the people who have helped. 

  • Thank the professionals, family members and friends who helped you through treatment as well as those who continue to help. In addition to it being a nice thing to do, there is no way to know whether they will be needed in the future.
  • Thank you notes work well, particularly when hand written. A sincere moment of person-to-person thanks is also appreciated.
  • Something home baked dropped off at your doctor’s office is generally especially appreciated. 

Keep in mind that you are not your disease.

If you learned life lessons during treatment, start putting them into practice. Otherwise they may be lost until the day you wake up and wonder what happened.


  • There are details in our medical care documents about these subjects because these same activities can help keep cancer from recurring or getting worse if it has not been eliminated.
    • If you are within 6 months after treatment, click here
    • If it has been 6 months or more since your treatment, click here.
  • For additional information about other aspects of life during the first six months after treatment ends, it is recommended that you read at least the Summary section of our other categories. For a complete list, click here

You Are Not Your Disease by Sally Fisher

"We have obtained this life as a human being. 

Whether we make it worthwhile or not depends on our mental attitude."

The Dalai Lama

We can choose whether to become our condition or to be a person living with a condition. We can decide whether our life becomes about our disease or whether our disease is simply a part of our entire life.

In the beginning it is appropriate and natural to be enveloped and a bit haunted by the idea that things have changed. Things have indeed changed with a diagnosis. Our fantasy of immortality is gone instantaneously. Our illusion that we are surrounded by some sort of invisible protective shield, and that these things happen only to other people, is shattered. Once we've begun to accept these changes into our consciousness, it's time to look at how we want to respond to our new reality. Most are variations on the three themes illustrated in the stories of my son Stephen, and of Amy and Al: (1) we can be felled by the news, (2) we can deny it, both of which mean that you choose to let your disease take over the featured position in your life, or (3) we can accept the news so that we can deal with it.

The choice is yours. You can either become your disease or you can have a disease. Or to state it in a different way: you can incorporate your condition into your world so that you can live as fully as possible while you ride the wave of reality. This means adopting a mental attitude that makes your life worthwhile.

The stories of Stephen, Amy and Al follow.


I remember the moment that my son Stephen, then in his early teens, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease with a clarity I wish I could apply to yesterday. He had been suffering periodic swollen glands, sleepiness, and aching. Something was not quite right, but the doctors couldn't identify it. Because of his age, they dismissed his complaints as related to the onset of adolescence and my concern as symptomatic of over-protection or maternal neurosis.

I finally arranged for him to see a doctor I knew well and trusted in Chicago while he was there on a visit. When I called to set up the appointment I insisted on a relentless search for whatever it was that was wrong. This was my child. I knew in my bones that something was up. The day he went for tests Stephen was symptom free, in fact he had played baseball all morning.

I remember getting the news from the doctor over the phone and wandering around my loft, pacing in circles, tears streaming down my face, staring out the window at people going about the course of their daily routine, laughing, shopping, talking. How dare they be having a nice day? Then, realizing that something had to be done about the situation, I went into high gear arranging everything from oncologists to healers. Several days later I went to the airport to pick up Stephen.

I stood at the gate waiting for my boy and almost missed him. I saw someone who resembled the son I'd put on the plane a week earlier but stooped like an old man walking slowly and carefully towards me. He was colorless, sallow, and gallows sad. We hugged tightly and cried together. As we headed towards baggage claim he could barely walk. I became very alarmed, then suddenly pictures of my parents treating him like a "cancer victim," furtive glances, periodic sighs, cheek and head strokings, and admonitions to save his strength flashed before my mind's eyes. Of course! In their concern they had sapped him of his very life force. He had become his disease. He had changed in a heartbeat from a kid playing center field to a dying child.

As we walked I asked him if he felt sick. He described his symptoms. I told him they were easily diagnosable as panic and depression, which seemed about right given the situation. I suggested that we go somewhere so we could talk about how he felt. He brightened a little. I asked him if he was in pain. He answered that he might die. I said that I knew that but where did he hurt. He answered that he had cancer. I stuck to my guns, though it was hard, but in reality nothing had changed. Everything he was going through was the result of a piece of information not his cancer. I kept asking him where it hurt until he realized that the hurt was not physical, that his heart was broken, he didn't know what was going to happen to him and he was scared. He could deal with that. He straightened to his full height and his normal coloring began to reappear. Arm in arm we collected his luggage and went to his favorite place for the best burger in town.

Our story has a happy healthy ending. Stephen went through surgery, radiation and doses of unpleasant medication but through it all he talked about his feeling, his fears and basically lived his life as normally as possible. He was a kid who had a disease, it didn't have him. He held his illness and pain in the container of his whole life rather than allow the illness to become the container for everything he thought, felt and did.


Sadly this isn't the case for everyone. Amy, a nurse who attended several workshops that I created for Caregivers, was diagnosed with lupus. She was constantly exhausted, she ran high fevers, she had severe joint pain, she had rashes and a raft of other related ills, but worst of all, she lost herself in the process of dealing with the situation. She was unable to work and take care of others, which was how she identified her value. She no longer knew who she was. She began to identify herself as her condition, her disease.

She was unaccustomed to letting people help out and unwilling to accept support. After all, giving support and taking care was her job! She put up a front while beneath her veneer she was suffering, not just from her symptoms, but from depression. She pushed everyone away but her closest family, and then felt isolated, helpless and alone. She immersed herself in researching lupus, which was a great idea, but she became so obsessed with the research and with her fight that she lost all perspective and lost sight of the idea that her life had room for anything more. Even her family began to lose patience because all she ever spoke or thought about was her plight and the results of her tireless search for answers. She lived every day of her illness in its context and so lost touch with everything that made her laugh, brought her pleasure or had always had meaning to her.


Al was an entirely different story. After Al was given a Hepatitis C diagnosis he joined a healing group at his new age church. He was determined not to let his diagnosis get him down for even a moment. Al had been following a practitioner who championed positive thinking and warned against the perils of anger, negativity or buying into an illness.

Al skipped over the shocked, outraged, frightened, upset that usually follows hot on the heels of finding out that your liver is in jeopardy. He skipped right over the doubt, the concern, the sense that his body had betrayed him and went right to saying that all was right in his world, everything was perfect, and that he was fine, just fine. Al spent every waking hour affirming that his disease was going away and eliminated anyone from his life who dared suggest that everything wasn't the way he had constructed it.

Though Al wouldn't deal with, acknowledge, treat or confront his Hepatitis, it was there none the less. Wishful thinking, magical thinking, and denial can't make something go away but it can consume your life. What happened to Al, of course, was that he became his disease as surely as if he'd drowned in it. It's just the flip side of Amy. He gave his power over to his disease by being unwilling to embrace the truth. He let himself become really sick before he finally faced the truth. He put his name on a transplant list and became one of the lucky ones.

It doesn't matter what you have been diagnosed with. The choice is yours.


*Sally Fisher is Founder of Intersect Worldwide. Intersect Worldwide which works at the intersection of HIV and violence against women and girls, offsite link  Sally is author of Life Mastery (Crown Publishing) and is currently working on a new book: Don't Just Stand There, Do Something