Life after cancer

Finishing cancer treatment can cause mixed feelings. For some it may be a time of celebration and relief that treatment has ended while others could feel anxiety that the cancer could come back. People might also feel anxious as they see their doctors less often. Others might be concerned about returning to work and family life and about how they would cope with the changes to their health.

There is also a great degree of stress that people feel during remission when they go for their follow up medical check ups because they fear that the cancer might come back. These feelings are all normal and part of the process of dealing with life after cancer. However, it is observed that individuals who can express both positive and negative emotions are more likely to adjust well. People can better deal with their emotions when they:

  • Are able to accept their feelings without thinking of them as right or wrong
  • Are able to share their feelings with others
  • Have support from family and friends

Surviving cancer is a test of both your physical and mental health. Becoming a long-term cancer survivor therefore takes time and a lot of adjustment. After their ordeal most people feel that surviving cancer has given them a greater appreciation of life and helped them understand the elements that are most valuable to them.

When cancer comes back
One of the most devastating events for a cancer survivor is to learn that their cancer has returned. For someone who is rejoicing the end of treatment and return to normal life this news could be debilitating.

Cancer recurrence is defined as the return of cancer after treatment and after a period where cancer could not be detected. The cancer might come back in the same place it started or in a different area of the body. There are several reasons why a cancer could recur. One might be that the original cancer was not fully removed. Surgery could have left behind some cancer cells that are now growing again. It could also mean that the cancer cells have become resistant to treatment and either didn’t die or have changed enough to survive treatment.

There is no specific duration by when cancer could come back. The general rule of thumb is that if a cancer comes back after a period of 1 year, it is called a recurrence. If on the other hand it returns in a shorter duration like 3 months, it is termed as progression.

The chances of cancer recurring depend on several factors like the type of the original cancer, the treatment you underwent, how long it has been since the completion of treatment etc. There is no overriding reason why a cancer might recur though maintaining a healthy lifestyle could give your body a fighting chance.

A recurrence is treated like the original cancer itself with all aspects being evaluated and treatment options being considered. Doctors will suggest treatment options that could be similar to the original treatment or they might choose a different option if it will give you a better chance. If the cancer tends to come back and cannot be fully cured it might at least be controlled. There is always a chance that the cancer will go back into remission.

While it is devastating that your cancer has come back. Do not lose hope. If you beat cancer once you could do it again!