Breast Cancer Survivors: Life After the Treatments End
The breast cancer treatments are over. Now what? Here's how to return to your "new normal."
"Chemobrain" and Other After-Effects continued...
Breast cancer survivorship, Weiss observes, is a marathon, not a sprint.
That means learning to handle the symptoms that stick around after treatment
ends, says Sloan-Kettering's McCabe, by using those adaptive strategies you
learned while on chemotherapy or recovering from surgery.
"You need to continue to have planned periods of rest, and think about
what times in the day and after what activities you tend to find yourself most
tired," she says. "If chemobrain is still bothering you, continue using
tricks like writing things down, posting reminders to yourself, and asking
people to repeat information." Some women find it helps to keep a daily
diary, noting down the times when fatigue or mental fogginess hit hardest, to
help them plan around it.
A Chance to Make Some Life Choices
Make sure your family and your officemates understand that just because
treatment is over, that doesn't mean that you're going to be able to jump right
back into running the carpool, coaching soccer, and traveling to conferences a
week out of every month.
"Everyone's ready for treatment to be over, not just you, and although
they've been supportive, your friends and family may be expecting you to spring
back right away," says McCabe. "It's an education process. They need to
understand that when the therapy stops, that doesn't mean that the effects of
the therapy stop immediately."
Manage your expectations, urges Weiss. "Decrease the stress and the
pressure on you in whatever ways you can. There are a lot of decisions you can
make to take charge of how your life goes while you're in this recovery
For example, you may have certain ideas about how your house should look,
how much income you're going to have, and what your commitments to your
community need to be. Decide which of those things are really important to you
and which ones don't matter quite as much. Let the less-important ones slide or
find someone else to do them.
Gina Shaw is a medical writer who was treated for breast
cancer in 2004, and now calls herself a "joyful breast cancer