When you’re coming towards the end of your cancer treatment, your thoughts will likely turn to your plans for the future. That could include returning to your job, starting to socialise again, or maybe even throwing a celebratory party.
Moving on from cancer isn’t the same for everyone. Some people find it easy and are able to transition back into their normal life without any trouble at all. But others (like me) found that I was walking a very strange path – half in the ‘normal’ world and half out of it.
If you’re feeling quite anxious at the thought of finishing cancer treatment, here are my tips for you.
Life without the hospital
After having a diary full of hospital appointments, it can be quite scary to suddenly find you’ve got a whole ream of blank pages until your next check-up in a few months’ time.
It’s natural to feel as though your safety net has disappeared and you’re suddenly just on your own in the world again.
To help myself shake off that anxious feeling, I started to plan things I wanted to do before my treatment even ended. It meant that once I finished chemo & I was in that weird space, I could look in my planner & see ‘ooh, a coffee with this friend…a movie night with this one…a theatre trip with my mam.’
Don’t fill your diary up completely and overwhelm yourself but give yourself little gems to look forward to so those blank pages don’t stretch before you, with nothing to focus your attention on.
Don’t bottle up your feelings
When you’re diagnosed with cancer and throughout your treatment, people tend to rally around – whether it’s your family, your friends, or health professionals. But when you come to the end of your treatment, a lot of people tend to assume that you’re ‘better now’ or just ‘over it’.
That’s not always the case & you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I don’t think people realise how hard it can be when you’ve finished your cancer treatment and it’s no bad reflection on them at all. You can’t expect them to know you need some help if you don’t ask for it.
So tell your best mate that you’re finding things tough, talk to your manager about working from home, call that therapist up if you need to. It’s not always easy but talking to people you trust is always worth it.
And if you need any help building the confidence up to have any difficult conversations, I’m here for ya!
Focus on how you want your life to look
You might find you’ve got some time on your hands when you’re coming to the end of treatment or when you finally finish it. I felt like I had so much time just sitting around in hospital beds and waiting rooms. Of course, I was 14 going on 15 and had no other responsibilities to think about but even if you do, I still recommend making time to do this.
Cancer changes your outlook on life – it’s undeniable. I don’t know of anyone who has gone in to it and come out as exactly the same person. Use the time at the end of your treatment to think about how you want your life to look after cancer.
Visualise what it is you’re doing, where you’re living, who’s around you. Your priorities might have completely changed in the time you’ve been in and out of hospital. When you finish treatment, you can start taking steps to make your visualisation your reality. Life’s too short to be miserable, right?
File hospital notes away
All those appointment letters and updates on your treatment – it’s quite tempting to chuck them all out straight away. But they can come in pretty handy for anything you might need to fill out in the future.
Buy a folder that you like the look of & file all of your notes away in there. Things like your hospital number, your appointment dates, the medication you were on and your doctor’s notes can really be of use when you’re buying insurance or calling up the hospital for test results.
Once they’re filed, you can put them to the back of your mind, knowing that all the info is there if you need it. And if you catch a glimpse of it, just use it as a reminder of how far you’ve come.
Re-decorate your space to suit the new you
Okay – now it’s time for the things you really can get rid of.
Pyjamas, tops you’ve bought to accommodate your Hickman line, hospital bags – if it reminds you of being ill, get it gone.
To this day, I still can’t stand having cold wires against my skin because it reminds me of having chemo pumped into me. Headphones, laptop chargers – they have to be kept well away from my skin. Ridiculous, I know, but if these little things remind me of being in hospital, the obvious things would have made me feel nauseous at the sight of them.
I chucked everything that reminded me of the hospital out when I finished treatment and it felt so good!
Do you have any more tips? I’d love to hear them.