Your body has been through a lot. YOU have been through a lot. And now, I would like nothing better than to tell you that it all over. And yes, it is, to some extent. It is important; in fact; it is necessary to celebrate this milestone. You stuck with it, saw it through; and that is something to appreciate.
As you now move into the next phase of your cancer journey; your focus should be on healing. Healing your body, your mind, your emotions. Everybody recovers at their own pace after treatment; and it is important to give yourself all the time you need to do so. Do not feel any pressure for things to happen on anyone’s schedule other than yours. Listen to your body and give it at it needs, when it needs it. Rest, Exercise, Nourishment, Sleep, whatever it needs. You may need to push yourself sometimes, that’s okay as long as you don’t overdo it. Again; listen to your body. It got you this far, respect it.
Recovery is a slow and steady process. How long it takes will depend on the type of cancer, the type of treatments you had, and how you are feeling physically, and emotionally. Take your time. Give your body as much time as it may need to recover from all it has been through and do not feel pressured to ‘return to normal’ under any timeline. This is your normal. You are ‘normal’.
You will be seeing dr. Joseph regularly for check-ups every 3 to 6 months during the first two years, then every 6 to 12 months during the third, fourth and fifth years after completing your treatment. After that, you may have no more than a yearly appointment.
Depending on the type of cancer you’ve been treated for, you may need to have a scan (e.g. a CT scan, an MRI or a PET scan) 2 to 4 months after your treatment is completed. This is to get a new baseline scan, to show how things look after your treatment. Your original scans, from before your treatment started, would be compared to these to see the difference. If, in the future, you need a scan to find out what is causing a problem, then this after-treatment scan can be used to compare with the new scan. Additionally, you may also have regular CT/MRI/PET/Bone scans to monitor your general health and status and to monitor for ay recurrence. Recurrence is understandably, a frightening word in cancer; but the only way to potentially overcome it is to pick it up early enough.
If applicable, your tumor marker levels e.g. CEA, PSA, Ca-125 will also be monitored regularly and reviewed at these follow up appointments.
A follow up plan will be created for you detailing the dates of your appointments, and what tests/scans if any, you may need to do before those appointments. In addition, you may need to have a cancer screening plan in place depending on your gender, age, family history, amongst other factors. Some examples of screening that may be necessary are: Breast, Cervical, Colon, Prostate cancer screening. For example, if you’ve been treated for cancer in one breast, you may need to regularly examine your other breast and have an annual mammogram. If you are on Tamoxifen you may need to be aware of endometrial cancer risk and have an annual check for this.
Doctors in other specialties e.g. surgery, gynecology, etc. may also have been involved in your care. I know it may be inconvenient, even difficult sometimes, but it is important to maintain your follow-up appointments until you have been fully discharged or are referred for further care.
If you stopped driving during treatment, you can begin again when feel you can look over each shoulder comfortably, and as long as you do not have any difficulty seeing clearly.
It is advisable to maintain a healthy weight after treatment. Healthy meaning balanced: being underweight/undernourished can be as damaging and dangerous as being overweight. If you have concerns about nutrition (what to eat or drink) or maintaining your weight, refer to the nutrition handout you received for information and advice. You may also ask for referral to a nutrition specialist. Dr. Joseph can provide one for you. Above all; listen to your body.
If you have been given exercises, continue to do them regularly, as they will help you recover/maintain your function. You may be referred to physiotherapy where they will gradually help you to work towards regaining your full strength and ability to move around. Your exercises should not be painful; some slight pressure or ache is okay but no more than that. If you feel you need to rest from the exercises for a day or two because they are uncomfortable then please do.
If you have concerns about a symptom and you don’t have an appointment coming up within the next two weeks, please contact the center front desk through the phone number provided or try to contact dr. Joseph for an appointment. If you have any of the following symptoms and they do not clear up within two weeks, do not wait until your next appointment. Please call the center and arrange to have an appointment.
- Development of new lump/bump in any part of the body
- Cough, Chest pain, or difficulty breathing
- Headaches, any signs of confusion/abnormal talk
- Bone pain, abdominal swelling, yellow eyes
- Thoughts or feelings of hopelessness, depression or suicide
- Any symptoms similar to the ones you had initially
If you were treated for a cancer in the head/neck region, you may have had teeth removed before your treatment; these may now be corrected through restorative dentistry. It is important to stay registered with your dentist and maintain your follow up appointments. You should also continue to see your Ear/Nose/Throat specialist and/or Ophthalmologist who will monitor for long-term sequelae of head and neck radiation including changes to your hearing or vision.
Patient support groups
You may find it helpful to connect with other people who have been through a similar cancer journey and treatment experience. See below a short list of some organizations/groups. Please note that the center is not affiliated with any of them and has no recommendation regarding them.
Sebeccly Cancer Support: 0808 711 1629, Cancer Aware: 0810 557 5164, Niola Cancer Care: 0805 104 8166
Breast Cancer Support and Mentoring Network
If you are being treated for breast cancer, ask dr. Joseph about connecting you to a breast cancer mentor (survivor) who may offer you emotional and psychological support. Please note that this mentor is not there to provide medical advice, or financial support. She is there only to share her journey and experiences with you as a way to encourage, empower, and embolden. You may disengage from this mentor at any time. NLCC is not affiliated with any of these mentors.