Q. What support services should a cancer survivor look for after finishing treatment?
A variety of physical and emotional responses can come up after treatment ends. Many people expect for things to go back to “normal” right away, but the reality is that it takes time for your mind, body and spirit to recover from cancer treatment. It can be a scary time for patients when you suddenly have much less interaction with your doctors. Reaching out for support is a very healthy way of taking care of yourself as you continue to heal from treatment. Engaging in certain activities can help you to regain some sense of control and be an active participant in your recovery.
Take a moment to think about the people who have been helpful to you. Your “team” includes the doctors, nurses, social workers, alternative health practitioners, other survivors and the family and friends who surround you. Defining and understanding the distinct role that each person plays is beneficial so you know where to turn when you need help. Who can answer medical questions? What programs exist to help financially? Who do you approach when you need a good listener? Keep in mind that some friends and family may think that everything is fine now that you’re treatment is complete. You might have to be up front about still needing support during this time in your recovery.
The following services may be helpful to consider:
- Ask your doctor about a survivorship care plan. This can give you a detailed timeline of follow-up tests, follow-up recommendations, after-care planning, how to address ongoing side-effects or medical issues, etc.
- Seek out peer support through support groups or survivor matching programs. This allows you the opportunity to learn from others and find emotional support from people who’ve also been through treatment and are adjusting to the post-treatment phase.
- Individual counseling provides a space to process the many complex feelings that come with cancer survivorship, such as sadness, fear/anxiety, and anger.
- Financial assistance programs are often available to help with some medically related expenses such as co-pays for medication, as well as out of pocket costs associated with transportation.
- Mind-body or alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, Reiki, acupuncture or massage can help you alleviate side effects such as fatigue and pain. Relaxation techniques may also help you manage feelings of anxiety.
Taking inventory of available supportive services is an important first step to take. Think about what services would be a good fit for you given your current needs. If it’s not clear or you are having trouble finding local services, speak with an oncology social worker who can help guide you.
CancerCare offers a variety of services for cancer survivors such as individual counseling, educational material and online support groups. Learn more about our services on our website or call our Hopeline: 800-813-HOPE (4673).