Part of being a cancer survivor is that you may have some residual emotions after your experience. You may be unsure of what comes next or how to move forward with your life. Part of taking care of yourself is paying attention to your emotions and feelings that may arise. Also, taking care of your body by eating well, exercising, sleeping, and achieving balance, and eliminating or reducing stress will help you stay healthy and feel like your old self, and improve the quality of your life.
Here is how to successfully navigate the next chapter of your life as a breast cancer survivor.
Emotions and Breast Cancer
You may have anxiety or stress over what the future holds; you may have anxiety regarding your financial situation, or about going back to work. Also, you may experience depression. If you are experiencing these issues, contact your doctor. Counseling, joining a support group, or possible medication are great solutions to alleviate your stress and worry.
Body Image and Sexuality After Breast Cancer
Experiencing breast cancer can have short-term or long-term effects on your body. Short-term effects such as hair loss are difficult but can be alleviated by using a wig or a scarf while your hair grows back. Other more long-term effects, such as a single or double mastectomy, can be more devastating to your body image.
Hormone changes in the body may affect your interest in sex, or may also increase your chances of early menopause. You should be honest and open with your spouse or significant other with your feelings, and you can also seek solace in a support group or with a counselor. You can always discuss options with your doctor to alleviate any of these symptoms.
After your cancer treatment is over, you still need to schedule your follow-up care. The best approach is to speak with your doctor to develop what is called a “survivorship plan.” This can be a schedule of doctor’s visits or scheduled tests. Your doctor may suggest a specific exercise regimen or a diet. This will help put you on the right track to proactively manage your own care and to know what to expect as a survivor.
Regular exercise has many benefits, as it can help relieve stress, improve your mood, and give you more energy. Also, you may be able to lose weight and reduce your risk for other diseases such as diabetes or heart issues. Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen to ensure that you are healthy enough to start. Going for a walk or a run can help blow off steam and can be a fun activity to do with your friends or family. Remember to start small and build up gradually; don’t tackle a marathon, start by walking around the block.
Coping With Stress and Fear
As a cancer survivor, you will encounter new challenges in your new life. Many of these challenges, which can vary from physical, to social, to financial, can cause you some stress or anxiety. You may have a fear of recurrence of cancer. There are other issues you may have to address as well. Thankfully, there are many programs, approaches, and tools that you can employ to face and address these challenges.
By interacting with those who may have had the same experiences as you, you may be able to reduce your stress or anxiety or learn ways in which to cope with your stress. Mindfulness meditation can help you learn to relax and control your thought process, which may help with anxiety. Also, exercise is a great outlet in which to focus your energy, and it may make you feel better and in more control of your body. Counseling, or psychotherapy, provides you with the opportunity to speak with someone, as well as the ability to gain a few helpful techniques to manage your stress.
Concern For Family Members
After surviving breast cancer, you may be concerned for your family members and the risk of your family members having breast cancer as well. Although it is unclear if the cause is genetic, your family members may have an increased risk of having breast cancer due to genetics or living similar lifestyles. The younger that you were diagnosed, the higher the risk of another family member having cancer as well. Also, if two members in one family were diagnosed with breast cancer or ovarian cancer, there is a higher risk for there to be a gene mutation.
Deciding to proceed with genetic testing for you or your family members is a big decision. This decision can also lead to