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From an emotional perspective, it helps to think of cancer as a chronic condition which has acute phases. Understanding this concept can help reduce ongoing anxiety and fear of recurrence. The number one concern of cancer patients is recurrence.

This perspective will hopefully also spur you to do everything you can to strengthen your ability to fight illness by eating right, exercising, taking care of your mouth, and getting enough rest/sleep.

Just Diagnosed

You are likely already experiencing a rush of emotions - often several at the same time.

In Treatment

During treatment, all kinds of emotions surface. Therapy itself can make you think your condition is getting worse rather than better. This is a good time to call on your support system, including support from your treatment team.

As a practical matter, treatment may be debilitating. You'll feel better if you do as much as you can until you can't.

When Treatment Ends

The emotional challenges don't end just because treatment does. In fact, high anxiety and a whole new set of challenges are to be expected. It may help to think of the end of treatment as the end of the first season (an acute phase in which you're an active patient). Now you're in recovery mode, beginning extended survivorship.

People expect you to put your life together and move on, while you're still dealing with what happened and the side effects. In fact, depression is common. You'll no longer be doing something active about your cancer, you will leave the warmth and support of the treatment team, your family wants the same old person back and people don't give you room to recover.

If you haven't before, this is a good time to consider joining a support group for support and to share the feelings that come up. You'll also learn practical tips about getting through this difficult phase.

Let the people around you know the transition post treatment takes time. According to Julia Rowland, head of the National Cancer Institute, it takes as much time to recover emotionally as the amount of time from first symptom to the very last day of your treatment. For example, if it was 8.5 months from diagnosis to end of treatment, it will likely take another 8.5 months to recover.

Fear of Recurrence

Fear of  recurrence is a fear that cancer may return after treatment and after a period of time during which the cancer cannot be detected. It is not unusual for the fear to surface before a follow-up visit, when you hear about someone else's cancer or if you experience aches and pains previously associated with cancer. The fear may not be connected to reality or your prognosis.

Worrying about a relapse doesn't help prevent one. It only affects the quality of the moment. Experience shows that it helps to talk about your fear, and that the fear gets less over time.

If You Need Professional Help

In addition to professionals with general knowledge who can help, there are specialists who deal with the difficulties that modern treatment and chronic decline have created. The sub-specialty which deals with cancer is known as Psycho-oncology.

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