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Facing Forward: When Someone You Love Has Completed Cancer Treatment

  • Posted: 11/30/2010

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Finding a "New Normal"

"When you're taking care of somebody, you're so busy. For me, staying busy was very fulfilling. But then, when it was over, I felt empty sometimes, wondering what to do next." --Joe

The end of cancer treatment is often a time to rejoice. Most people expect to put their cancer experience behind them and pick up where they left off in their lives. People are eager to get back to their normal routines and activities.

Now what do I do?
One of the most common reactions by caregivers after treatment ends is to ask themselves, "Now what do I do?" They may wonder if they will be needed as much. And they may feel a sense of loss. Many have to think about how to adjust to this "new normal."

It's important to remember during this time that each person involved tends to adjust at his or her own pace. Some people are able to resume their regular activities right away. Others may need some extra time to recover. There may be pressure for you or your loved one to get back to the way things were before cancer. Yet it's important to know that for some, this can still be an emotional period.

Your loved one needs time to come to terms with what has happened. She still may be coping with the effects of treatment and adjusting to all the changes. She needs to figure out a "new normal." This means getting back to her old life, but in a way that's probably different than before. This also applies to you. Taking time for yourself and finding a new sense of normal is a process you will be adjusting to as well.

During treatment, you took on many roles. You may have been in charge of many decisions. Your loved one may have stepped back from decisions to stay focused on getting through treatment. It's common for caregivers to feel confused once it's over. You may have questions such as: How do I help my loved one now? Should I go back to work, or stay at home? When will he be ready to take on former roles and responsibilities? The answers to these questions vary with each person. As you move forward, try to be patient and take things one day at a time.

Definition of Survivorship
A person is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also part of the survivorship experience. The word "survivor" helps many people think about embracing their lives beyond the illness.