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Coping at the end of treatment

Many people experience a wide mixture of emotions after treatment and everybody will cope differently.

The end of treatment involves another series of adjustments as you come to terms with what you have been through and you start to think about your life moving forward. Here are some common feelings some patients may experience after treatment:

Isolation and abandonment

Many people say that they expected to feel elated once treatment ends, but what they actually experience is an ‘anti-climax’ and a feeling of abandonment. Even though people may have struggled with the effects of treatment and/or with being in hospital, when treatment ends they often describe feeling isolated because they have grown used to seeing hospital staff regularly and seeing people who understand what you’re going through.

Uncertainty

For some patients, it is the uncertainty associated with the threat of disease relapse or progression that is anxiety provoking. After treatment and close monitoring, you may feel as though nothing being done to keep the disease at bay, which can lead to more anxiety about relapse.

Loss of independence

Adjusting to the transition from hospital to home after a lengthy inpatient stay can often be particularly difficult. This is partly because, to some degree, you will have become institutionalised in hospital, meaning that many things will have been done for you and you will have lost some of your independence.

Some people describe feeling like they are a ‘stranger’ in their own home, that they don’t belong somehow, or that they notice that things have been done differently since they’ve been away. It might feel as though your usual role within the home has been lost or taken over by someone else; this can include your parenting role.

Coping when you’re not receiving treatment

Some people will not need to start treatment when they are first diagnosed. Instead, they will be monitored by their medical team and will be given treatment when it is thought to be appropriate and necessary. This period of monitoring is often described as being on ‘watch and wait’ or active monitoring. If you are in remission after having had treatment the process of follow-ups and monitoring could also be described as ‘watch and wait’. Whichever category you fall into, the uncertainty about whether or how your disease will progress or relapse is worrying and anxiety provoking. You might feel helpless and out of control, as you did when you were first diagnosed. 

Published Feb 2016

Next planned review: Feb 2018