In English | En español
Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Facing Forward: When Someone You Love Has Completed Cancer Treatment

  • Posted: 11/30/2010

Page Options

  • Print This Page
  • Print This Document
  • View Entire Document
  • Email This Document
  • View/Print PDF
  • Order Free Copy

Shifting Your Focus Away from Treatment

The day your loved one finishes treatment is the milestone you've both been waiting for. It is a time of celebration and reflection for making it through your experience. You can begin to start taking back control of your life and thinking about other things that are important to you.

You may be glad to have free time where you aren't going to doctor visits, tests, treatment, and running related errands. Your loved one may start to feel better and you are able to venture out together to enjoy the things that are part of your life. Or you may decide to take a vacation or plan a special event. You may also have time to focus more on things you may have had to put on hold such as work and family issues.

Even though this is what you've been waiting for, it's important to recognize that it's a time when you may still have strong feelings.

The end of treatment is a time to:
  • Celebrate.
  • See what things your loved one is ready to handle again.
  • Focus on other family and work issues that were put on hold.
  • Sort out your feelings on the experience.
  • Spend more time with friends and family.

Being Aware of Your Feelings

"In some ways, I feel a loss. For a while I was pulled in so many different directions as I took care of my family and my mother. But now that she's getting better, I miss feeling needed. I don't know what to do with myself." - Gloria

It's normal to have many different feelings after treatment ends. Some caregivers say that their feelings are even more intense after treatment, since they have more time to process it all.

You may feel happy, yet sad at the same time. You may be glad and relieved that your loved one is through with treatment. But you could also feel anxious because you're no longer doing something directed at fighting the cancer. You may feel a sense of sadness and loss at still seeing your friend or family member in a weakened state. This can also be a time when you feel more lonely and isolated than before.

For example:

  • You may miss the support you had from the patient's health care team.
  • You may feel as if a safety net has been taken away.
  • You may feel pressure to return to your old self.
  • Friends and family may go back to their daily lives, leaving you with more to do. They may not be checking in with you as they did when your loved one was getting treatment.
  • You may still avoid going out with others for fear of something happening to your loved one while you are gone.
  • You may find it hard to relate to people who haven't been through what you have.

You may have many feelings as you see your loved one struggle with moodiness, depression, or loss of self-esteem. You may worry that any physical problem is a sign of the cancer returning, yet at the same time, feel thankful that this person is here and part of your life. You may look forward to putting more energy into the things that mean the most to you.

These feelings are all normal. It helps to give yourself time to reflect on your experience with cancer. People need different amounts of time to work through the challenges that they are facing.

It's okay to cry or express your feelings as you cope with the changes that come after treatment ends. You don't have to be upbeat all the time or pretend to be cheerful. Give yourself time to cope with what you and your loved one have gone through. Many caregivers say that the strong feelings they had right after treatment ends often lessen with time.

If feelings of sadness or despair last for more than a few weeks, this can be a sign of depression. Some signs of depression can also be symptoms of other physical problems. You may want to talk with your doctor if these feelings make it hard for you to function. Depression can be helped by talking with a counselor or therapist or with medicine. See the list to the right for warning signs of depression.

Do you need help with depression or anxiety?

Remember, many of the things listed below are normal. This is especially true when you are dealing with a lot of stress. But talk with your doctor if you have any of these signs for more than 2 weeks. Your doctor may suggest treatment.

Signs of Depression or Anxiety

  • Feeling helpless or hopeless, or that life has no meaning
  • Not feeling interested in family, friends, hobbies, or things you used to enjoy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling short-tempered and grouchy
  • Not being able to get certain thoughts out of your mind
  • Crying for long periods of time or many times each day
  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
  • Feeling "wired," having racing thoughts or panic attacks
  • Having sleep problems, such as not being able to sleep, having nightmares, or sleeping too much