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Post Treatment 6 months +

Do not be surprised at the emotions that may continue to surface. Share them. Contact another survivor with a similar experience. Consider a support group.

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It is a myth to think that you can put cancer behind you with no emotional aftermath. The severity of emotional swings generally lessens over time, but can surface at unexpected times.

It is common to feel anxiety about whether your condition will come back (known as "fear of recurrence"). This is particularly to be expected when a medical checkup is scheduled or you get any physical symptoms such as a cold. (Survivorship A to Z provides information about how to get through the often anxiety provoking period of waiting for test results).

Watch for signs of depression. Depression is not unusual. Depression is usually treatable.

Use whatever other coping mechanisms you used to get you through treatment. Additional coping mechanisms are described in the documents listed in "To Learn More."

If you are still feeling the effects of your cancer or treatment, let the people around you know that the transition after treatment takes time. Dr. Julia Rowland, a noted psycho-oncologist, suggests that the time to a return of a feeling of normalcy is generally about the same as the time between the first diagnosis and end of treatment. If that period was 18 months, expect at least 18 months to recover.

Get your emotions out. Share them with family members and/or friends. Many people find that writing their thoughts help. The writing doesn't have to be a bound journal, and you don't have to share it with anyone to get a benefit.

Talk with another person who is going through the same thing you are or who has been there. Look for someone who had the same cancer and experience. If you were treated for cancer 10 years ago, the experience was likely different than the experience of a person who was treated 5 years ago and from a person treated today.

You can find other long term survivors through a variety of sources including:

  • Your local or national disease specific nonprofit organization, such as The American Cancer Society: offsite link or 800.ACS.2345
  • Cancer Support Community (formerly Gildas Club Worldwide and The Wellness Community). See: offsite link to find a community near you or for online support groups.
  • The ACOR long term survivors list connects people with similar cancers online. See: offsite link. Click on "Mailing Lists." Then, under "Survivorship," click on "Long Term Survivors."
  • Your cancer center or possibly staff in your cancer doctor's office.

Also consider joining a support group. Many cancer centers have support groups for people who have completed treatment. In addition to emotional support, groups are a great source of practical tips and information. The length of time to stay in a group depends on the individual. You'll know when it's time to stop. When you feel that way, give the group a few more sessions to be sure.

If you haven't already, turning to religion or spirituality can help.

If your emotions make living difficult or interfere with your daily routine, let your doctor know. Perhaps he or she can prescribe a medication that will help. Professional therapeutic help is also available.

Don't be surprised if you look at life in new ways. For instance, many people look for meaning in the experience or for a purpose in life.

Last, but not least, consider getting a pet. Studies show that pets ease emotions, enhance quality of life and can even extend it. If you live in an apartment with a "no pet" policy, you may be entitled to an exception if your doctor prescribes a pet for your health thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

NOTE: Adult cancer survivors are at increased risk of psychological distress. Remind your primary care doctor of that fact and ask that he or she screen for psychological distress.

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