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Adjusting to life after treatment

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

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The shock of a blood cancer diagnosis can be difficult to cope with and it often helps to focus on the business of getting on with treatment. However, it can be much more difficult to cope with longer term concerns when treatment is over and we try to return to ‘normal life’.

One of the major concerns people have is whether the cancer might return. This can lead to anxiety about any changes or sensations in the body, and it often gets worse around the time of hospital appointments. So, what’s the best way to handle this?

Well, this is a perfectly normal reaction. Worry is our way of trying to prepare ourselves for bad things happening. It can lead to dark thoughts and brooding about the future. Don’t worry about these thoughts, let them come and go and they will pass with time. If you are very worried or fearful, think of something that makes you feel good and warm inside, maybe a loved one or a special place or an image that is important to you. This can feel protective at frightening times.

A diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing experience, and we have to make sense of what has happened and what it means for our lives now. This is often described as ‘survivorship’; a unique journey for each person, but with some common elements. It involves living with a degree of uncertainty that was not there before. It also involves accepting that bad things happen but that there is always the potential for good things too.

What helps? Balance out the uncertainty by taking control of as much as you can. Make positive decisions about what you want and what you want to do. The choices we make define who we are. Take it one step, one choice, one day at a time.

Survivorship involves moving beyond what we thought was normal, finding a ‘new normal’ that fits the way things are now. Think about your priorities and what you want to get from life now. This may be more time with family and friends, or more time for you and your interests.

Some people want to put something back: through a support group, or raising money for a leukaemia charity. Some people even run marathons, but let’s face it, this is not for everybody. Think about who your supporters are. Ask for help when you need it from family, friends, or professionals. Think about your own needs, and be kind to yourself. If there was ever a time for being selfish, the time is now!

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