Surviving cancer is a huge milestone! It often follows weeks, months, or even years of ups and downs, physical struggles, financial burdens, and emotional stress. People often think once they’ve endured the treatment and gotten to the other side to be able to call themselves a “survivor,” that life gets much easier. Unfortunately for many people, that is often not how it goes. Going from cancer patient to cancer survivor can bring with it many challenges, including physical, financial, and emotional stressors.
It is not your imagination that you feel worse and it does not make you the oddball! In fact, adults who have survived cancer are thought to be twice as likely to experience mental health challenges as those adults who never had cancer. Survivors often experience a range of emotions, including anxiety and depression. Being diagnosed with cancer and enduring the associated treatment can be quite traumatic for some people and dealing with the trauma after treatment is done is difficult. Many people experience symptoms of PTSD following cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Furthermore, although we also know someone who has survived cancer, it is not something that we discuss regularly and so coping with survivorship emotions can feel isolating.
In addition to emotional struggles that come with surviving cancer, there are often physical effects as well. For many people, a cancer diagnosis means treatments that can affect your physical appearance, whether it’s a mastectomy, scars from surgery, losing your hair, or simply the physical effects of nutritional deficits and exhaustion. Physical changes can be stressful for anyone and can lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
Although these feelings and concerns are relatively common among cancer survivors, it doesn’t mean you have to just accept them as your new normal. In fact, there are treatments that can help you learn how to cope differently and decrease the negative emotions you’re feeling. Adjusting to any life transition can be difficult and this is no different. Here is some helpful information for survivors from the National Cancer Institute. And if you or someone you know would benefit from talking to someone about survivorship concerns, please contact me to learn more about ways I can help.