What Comes Next?
Many of you know that this is one of my favorite topics: what happens after the final radiation or chemotherapy treatment? How do you pick up/reassemble the pieces of your life and move forwards? One woman described it to me this way: My body and my life are like a bombed-out city during a war. I have to rebuild brick by brick, day by day." Hopefully you know about my book, After Breast Cancer: A Commonsense Guide to Life after Treatment, and have found it helpful.
This is an interview with Dr Lidia Schapira, who is a medical oncologist at MGH, from ASCO's Ask the Expert re these same issues. I include an excerpt and then a link to read more:
As people complete their cancer treatment, they may experience a range of emotions, from relief that treatment is over to apprehension about the future. In some ways, this transition is one of the least understood aspects of the cancer experience. Here, Cancer.Net talks with Lidia Schapira, MD, about coping with the end of active cancer treatment.
Q: What are some immediate medical concerns of patients once they've finished active treatment?
A: Typically, there is a surge in anxiety and worry over the possibility that the cancer will return once active treatment is completed. Often, people feel they are not doing enough to
actively fight the cancer. Another common problem is that some physical and psychologic changes don't disappear with the last treatment and seem to last for months or years after treatment ends. A few examples of such symptoms are fatigue, lack of stamina, difficulty focusing, changes in skin texture, or neuropathic (nerve) changes in fingers and toes. Finally, people often want to know what signs to look for to detect a cancer recurrence (return) as early as possible and recognize the long-term side effects of treatment. For example, a person who received a medication that may affect his or her bone density needs to know how his or her bones will be monitored and what treatments are available.
Q: What are some initial psychologic concerns of patients once they stop active treatment?
A: Some initial psychologic concerns include worry about cancer recurrence, worry about one's identity and future, and worry about dying young or leaving things undone. Some patients may also suffer from poor body image or low self-esteem because of the treatments they received; they may need special assistance to learn to accept their new body.
(you can read it or download it as a podcast)