Life After Treatment

Moving from active treatment to a survivor is arguably the most complex aspects of the cancer experience because it is so varied from person to person. Emotions range from fear of recurrence to relief for finally being able to move on. Some become anxious about their health, and others express profound gratitutude and a greater acceptance of themselves. During treatment, patients can feel protected by the constant support provided by their health care team with the frequent visits. However, after treatment is finished, these visits end, and it can be daunting to face new anilities and challenges without this support. However, through Cancer GPS, your support system does not have to disappear. With various survivorship meetings and mentorship, these programs can help you with your life after treatment. These programs are discussed in detail on the support page.

Along with a transition from patient to survivor, it is important to start making positive, lifestyle changes. Survivors are at increased risk for developing health problems, so healthy habits can reduce the severity of side effects and build physical strength.


Here is a list of suggestions from improving your physical and emotional health.

  • Stop Tobacco Use
  • Reduce Alcohol Use
  • Eat Nutritious Meals
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Manage Stress
  • Re-evaluate Old Habits and Priorities
  • Spiritual Support (Link to page on website)
  • Keep a Journal
  • Try New Activities

Family

Cancer can change the way you and your family interact. Family members can become overprotective. Friends can distance themselves, while others become closer. Everyone is changed by the cancer experience whether they are aware of it or not.

Parenting after surviving cancer can present new challenges. For several months or even years, cancer treatment could have made it difficult for you to spend time with your children. This can make you feel guilty and want to make up for lost time. However, longterm side effects can make this difficult and frustrating. It's important to understand your limitations and note compare yourself to others. You may want to make every minute count after finishing treatment. However, this can also cause a lot of unnecessary stress on not only you but also your family. Instead, think of manageable ways to enjoy experiences together.

For survivors, starting or expanding your family can be a difficult decision. Generally speaking, becoming pregnant after cancer treatment is considered safe. However, the amount of time after finishing treatment varies from patient to patient. Also, if you are a female survivor, it is important to talk to your doctor about whether your body can safely handle a pregnancy, as cancer treatments can damage areas of your body. Unfortunately, cancer treatment can sometimes make it difficult or impossible to have children. If this is the case, it may be worth looking into other options.


Here is a list for dealing with infertility

  • Assisted Reproduction
  • Donor Eggs
  • Donor Sperm
  • Testicular Sperm Extraction/Epididymal Sperm Extraction
  • Donor Embryos
  • Surrogacy and Gestational Carries
  • Adoption

Sexuality and Intimacy

In general, people tend to be less interested in sex while having cancer treatments. However, even though this improves after becoming a survivor, new challenges may arise. Some treatments can cause physical affects that interfere with having sex. Furthermore, physical alterations, such as the loss of a breast or having lost hair, may effect the way a person feels about his/her body. It can be extremely helpful to find a counselor, who has experience working with people with cancer, and talking through these issues with them. Good communication, which involves not only speaking honestly but also listening intently, can help both you and your spouse adapt to the changes cancer has brought into your lives.


Returning to Work

Returning to a full-time work schedule gives patients and those around them a returning sense of normalcy. Working allows opportunities to reconnect with colleagues and getting back into a normal routine and lifestyle. However, transitioning back into a job may feel daunting. Everyone's situation is different, and it is important to consider whether you are ready to return. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you are ready to return to work. If you job is physically demanding, you may have to wait longer. After your doctor has said that returning is alright, speak to the human resources department to discuss returning. Ask about the possibility of flexible work arrangements, such as part time hours and leave time of doctor's appointments. These are acceptable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Although many cancer survivors are as productive as they were before treatment when returning to work, some may find discrimination. Employers may assume that a cancer survivor's productivity will decrease or will fall below company standards. Other possibilities include a demotion for no apparent reason, being overlooked for a new position, and/or a lack of flexibility with scheduling medical appointments.

For other survivors, they may be unable to return to their previous job or may decide that they want to follow a different path than their current career path. Therefore, survivors may worry about applying for a new job and explain gaps in work history or reasons for leaving previous job positions before treatment. If this is a concern, you may find it useful to to talk with a career counselor or a social worker. However, it is important to note that, by law, an employer cannot ask you a question about your health or a medical condition. Even if you tell your employer about your history of cancer, they cannot ask you an questions about your cancer, treatment, or even recovery. But, they are allowed to ask you questions related to the specific job, such as can you drive. Some survivors also like support groups for encouragement and to relate with others who have similar goals. Additionally, these groups can point survivors toward useful resources and networking tips.


Finance

Cancer treatment is expensive, and even people with good health insurance, can be left with expensive bills to pay. This can be stressful, and it can be difficult to pay for medical and household expenses. Furthermore, survivors may have lost income from not working during treatment. It is worth looking into applying for social security disability insurance or supplemental security income. Additionally options include long-term disability insurance or retirements plans. Another way to deal with stress is to organize the bills. The rent/mortgage, utilities, taxes, and medical expenses should take the utmost priority. Furthermore, if the insurance company has denied payment, it is possible to make an appeal. If this appeal is denied, under the Affordable Care Act, an independent review organization can decide whether to uphold or overturn the decision.

Another option is to ask for payment in full. Payment in full is a discounted price offered to people that offer to pay the entire payment at once rather than paying the designated amount of very. Surprisingly, this can be successful alot more than survivors expect because hospitals usually have funds to offset medical services that are not fully covered by insurance. Furthermore, survivors can talk to their creditors, ask family members for help budgeting and organizing, and/or contacting an organization that offers help for cancer survivors facing financial challenges.