I am scared that the cancer will come back
When you have been through cancer treatment, it is VERY normal to be worried that the cancer might return. It’s a tricky time as others around you might expect you to feel all relieved and grateful that the treatment is finished and things can go back to “normal” (whatever that is!). Many people don’t feel relieved, they feel exhausted and insecure; with no idea of how life might feel “normal” again. It is common to worry about every ache, pain, rash, headache – you name it, it seems like it’s cancer. Even if you logically know it’s daft, that doubt in yourself and your body lurks in your mind. It’s called “fear of recurrence”. Even though it is a normal part of recovery from cancer, sometimes it builds to the point that it is affecting your sleep and your moods. Getting professional help can make things a lot more bearable (not only for you, but for those you live with!).
Here’s some ways that you may find help you to cope with the fear of cancer returning:
- Talk to your medical team about whether there are things you can do to reduce your risk
- Use common sense; don’t listen to random advice from people, or the internet
- Be clear about what surveillance and tests are recommended (and why)
- Set limits on what you check and how often. Prodding and obsessing makes things worse
- Like the ads say “if symptoms persist, see your doctor” – other non-cancer stuff might need attention
- Why do people seem to tell you stories of people they knew who had cancer (and died!)? Stop them as soon as you realise what’s coming out of their mouths!
- Learn ways to manage your stress. Stress doesn’t cause cancer but it feels yuck and makes everything feel more scary and overwhelming
- Think about your life; maybe different things matter to you now. Do more of them.
- Talk to (non-judgmental!) people about how you feel (support groups can help)
- Mind your thinking; we get into destructive patterns that are, frankly, unhelpful (and then, what’s worse, we believe them!)
- You may feel you have lost trust in your body; and trust is something that takes time to earn back. You will get “scares” that come to nothing – gradually you learn it’s OK
- The fear usually gets better over time. Many people find it is worse in the first year after treatment
- Be kind to yourself, you’ve been through a lot
- Don’t be scared to make plans for the future. Buy the shoes. Always buy the shoes