Here is the first part of my research on Cancer Rehab plus some books that I Love.
The Post Treatment Stage
I am at that stage of not being ill but not being well. It is often called convalescence, recuperation, rest, recovery and the post-treatment or survivorship stage.
Whatever the definition, it can be a challenging time for survivors with lots of things and feelings happening such as:
- A let down: I felt that I would be excited to finish chemo but when I finished, I didn’t feel that way. There were so many other things to deal with.
- A limbo feeling: I can’t do what I did before but I’m not ill. But I’m still not really able to plan or do things as usual.
- Grief can come to the surface: when you are having cancer treatment, you are often so busy and feeling unwell; it’s often difficult to process the cancer until it is over.
- Catching up with tasks and relationships: everything is put on hold for 6, 12 or 18 months while you focus on treatments. Then suddenly these issues are waiting to be resolved at the end of treatment. I now have a ‘to do’ list a mile long.
- Handling others’ expectations. “You’ve finished chemo; when will you come back to work?” The side effects are mostly invisible and people start expecting more. Also, convalescence can be seen as optional in our fast paced society. Rest can seem, well lazy.
- Lingering side effects. Depending on the type of treatments, survivors may end treatment with many issues that were not there before such as fatigue, lack of balance, pain, difficulty in walking, numb hands or feet, scar tissue issues, weight gain, lymphedema etc. Now each of these side effects has to be addressed.
- Fatigue: Post-treatment fatigue may conflict with the desire to get back out there and resume the old life… without the energy to do that.
- Exiting the system: Some people exit the medical system abruptly and feel a sense of being lost or scared. “No one is monitoring me anymore and what if the cancer comes back?”
- Fear of recurrence. Often when treatment ends, new fears arise about cancer returning, especially as we are not actively doing anything about the cancer e.g. chemo or radiation.
- Practical issues: there may be work, career and finance issues that were not there before treatment e.g. job uncertainty, an overdraft or inability to find part time work.
- Relationship changes: with cancer, some friends and family may disappear or just not understand. At the end of treatment, you may feel that you have lost people from your life or have challenging relationship issues to address.
- Depression: Some survivors face depression during or at the end of treatment. For many cancer survivors, the post-treatment stage is as challenging – or more so – than the cancer treatments themselves.
N.B. cancers and their treatments vary in their severity and everyone is unique in how they respond to treatments. Many cancer survivors simply revert into life as usual and that is great.
In amongst all of that, for many people, there is a motivation to make positive lifestyle changes and a new sense of the importance of time, relationships and balance in life.
But first things first, before jumping back into life, many cancer survivors need to take time to recuperate or rehabilitate themselves post-cancer. Side effects need to be addressed to improve quality of life and some people want advice on how ‘not’ to get cancer again. Also, physical and psychosocial effects may develop months to years after treatment ends. All cancer survivors need follow-up care.
The Ministry of Health defines cancer support and rehabilitation as: “the provision of the essential services to meet the physical, emotional, nutritional, information, psychological, sexual, spiritual and practical needs throughout a person’s experience with cancer” http://www.moh.govt.nz/.
The Cancer Control Strategy NZ outlines: Quality of life, when referring to health, means the extent to which a person’s usual or expected physical, emotional and social wellbeing is affected by a medical condition or its treatment. Evidence shows that when people experiencing cancer receive good social and psychological support, their quality of life improves. In order to achieve the best possible outcome for those with cancer, every aspect of their treatment and care must recognise their total needs. Their physical, social, psychological, nutritional, information and spiritual needs are all equally important.
In some cases, their quality of life is affected by physical impairments due to cancer; in such cases, assistance may be needed to enable them to perform everyday activities and live as independently as possible. The extent to which physical, psychological and social rehabilitation is required depends on the type and severity of the impairment and the type and magnitude of the treatment provided http://cancercontrolnz.govt.nz/support-rehabilitation.
Next week, I will outline a range of cancer rehab resources and detail my first cancer rehab appointment with a cancer Nurse at the Cancer Society.
Below, I outline a few cancer related books that I Love.
Books I Love
1. Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie S Siegel
Bernie Siegel is an excellent author. As a Doctor himself, he offers insights and understanding of what it takes to be a cancer survivor.
2. Dr Susan Love’s Breast Book by Susan M Love
I really look to Dr Susan Love for answers as she is one of the world’s top breast cancer researchers. This book answers all the questions.
3. Natural Remedies That Really Work by Shaun Holt
Shaun Holt is a NZ based medical researcher who has gone through the medical studies for us. He outlines which natural or complementary therapies actually work and which don’t. I recommend both of these books.
4. Complementary Therapies for Cancer by Shaun Holt
5. Super Healing: The Clinically Proven Plan to Maximize Recovery from Illness or Injury by Julie K Silver
This is an excellent resource in rehabilitation and recovery post-cancer treatment. It focuses on optimising your recovery and healing potential.
6. Cover Your Breasts by Alison Renfrew
Alison is a breast cancer survivor and a financial financial advisor. Here she shares her story and thoughts of the cancer journey, alongside prudent financial advice.