Life after cancer - the new normal

Life after cancer

When most people recover from a serious illness, the last thing they think about is will it come back again – unless you’re a cancer survivor. Then this question is very real.

For 32-year-old Nicola, being in remission for more than ten years doesn’t stop her getting, “… that scary feeling whenever anything goes wrong with my health or I feel slightly sick. What would just be a tummy bug in the past now makes me ask: is cancer back? My advice here is to have a close relationship with your GP – someone that understands your fears.”

Be aware

This is reinforced by Professor Carol-Ann Benn, a renowned surgeon and breast-disease specialist, who is one of the top breast cancer specialists in South Africa. “Cancer treatment is life-long. It’s natural to suddenly be aware of aches and pains after treatment, so it’s important to speak with your oncologist and find out what to look out for. Surrounding yourself with the right people and access to information is vital. Even six to 12 months after treatment, you can expect to be concerned about changes to your body, you will undergo various emotions and there will be anxiety.”

It’s highly doubtful that your life after cancer would just carry on where it left off, without leaving some scars. It might well affect your relationship with family and friends, even your career and see you reassessing some life choices.

“I spent so much of my life pushing myself and chasing my dreams that I realised after my cancer that things had to change – with my marriage and my life. I wasn’t prepared to comprise – I knew I wanted more,” explains Cindy, who had Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia.

There’s no one right way to handle your life post-cancer, and it may take you longer than others to get back on track. But you have to start somewhere – why not today?

Coping tips:

  • Stay informed – it may be necessary to make some  lifestyle choices or changes
  • Talk about your feelings and emotions with someone you trust
  • Find ways to relax – download a mindfulness or meditation App (Smiling Mind, Healthy Minds)
  • Do as much exercise as your lifestyle allows
  • Take control of your life, particularly your health. Don’t put checks off.

Finding Support

Emotional support for cancer survivors and their families is necessary. You may want to go for counselling or join a support group. There are various support groups

For cancer support resources, visit these links: