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Cancer Support: Life After Treatment - Topic Overview

"Even though the treatment worked and I'm cancer-free, I worry a lot about getting sick again."—Linda, 63

"You expect that after getting through chemotherapy, you can put it behind you and move on. I just wanted things to go back to normal. Some things did go back to how they were. But it's hard, because I feel like something in me is different, and I'm not sure how to deal with it."—Jack, 71

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Call 1-800-4-CANCER For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions. Chat online The NCI's LiveHelp® online chat service provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The...

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"Cancer changed everything. My body is different and I have scars from surgery, and I'm still trying to get used to that. I'm eating healthier and really taking care of myself now. I also started focusing more on the things that really matter to me. I have a new sense of purpose."—Rosa, 54

Making sense of it all

Surviving cancer is something to celebrate. But many people find the time after treatment is different than what they expected. It may be difficult to make sense of how cancer has affected and changed you.

Some of the changes may be good. You may have a fresh outlook on life and feel that you've been given a second chance.

Other changes may be hard to deal with. You may have pain or scars from treatment. Some of your relationships may have changed. And even though you're well, you may still feel distress over everything you went through. Or you may worry about the cancer coming back.

This is a time of adjustment, taking care of yourself, and finding your new "normal." This stage is part of your recovery, and it may take more time than you expect.

Your new normal

Cancer changes families. It can create closer bonds, but it also can bring out difficult emotions.

Here are some things you can do to help your family adjust:

  • Let them know what you can and can't handle. Even though your treatment is over, you may not have enough energy to do all the things you used to do. Let your family know that you still need their help.
  • Help them understand that it takes time. Talk about how cancer has changed your family and how some things may not go back to how they were before cancer.
  • Be honest with your kids. Speak openly about your cancer and recovery, and let them ask questions.

Some of your relationships may be different now too. You may have new friends because of cancer. You may have grown closer to some of the people in your life. Or maybe you feel disappointed in people you thought you could count on.

Finding your new normal after cancer takes time. Everyone who goes through cancer has a time of adjustment afterward. Be patient with yourself, and remember that there's no right or wrong way to feel.

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