health: Candid Cancer: Finding our way after treatment ends
Like everyone, I couldn't wait to finish treatment and jump right back into my old life. Yet when treatment was over, I found myself in a vacuum, thinking how ironic that all the drugs that I'd taken had freed my body of something so invasive as cancer and still I felt so vulnerable. Sound familiar?
When treatment ends, we often feel lost in transition. We want to put the whole experience of cancer behind us, but conflicting feelings are common. Our family and friends may expect us to be our old selves, while we're unsure that our old selves exist. We may still need help with day-to-day activities. Our bodies may have changed. We may worry about recurrence. And as we tentatively step back into our old worlds, we may feel different, lonely and isolated, even if we're surrounded by many people.
And we may have awfully high expectations of ourselves. I certainly did. On the day of my last treatment, I walked out of the hospital declaring to my husband Alex, "It's over. We have our life back." What was I thinking?
Our bodies can't possibly heal overnight from months of toxic treatments. In my case, it took several weeks to make it through a whole day without a nap and another several to feel stronger than a kitten. And I would quickly learn that the emotional wounds that cancer leaves behind require time to heal, too.
Recovering from treatment doesn't come neatly gift wrapped, nor is it a straight line, but there are resources to help us through that period, including one that I wish had been around when I needed it: Cancer Transitions, a program designed specifically to help us, physically and emotionally, to move from life in treatment to life afterwards.
This six week program — for people who are anywhere in their first two years after treatment — was developed by The Cancer Support Community (formerly The Wellness Community and Gilda's Clubs) and Livestrong. It's offered throughout the country at one of the 100 Cancer Support Community locations.
Cancer Transitions uses several materials to guide discussions, including the National Cancer Institute's booklet Facing Forward: Life After Treatment, which provides great insight into the medical, emotional and social issues that we experience following treatment.
Sound good? Then you're in luck if you're local! The program begins this Saturday, March 26 at The Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor (formerly The Wellness Community of Southeast Michigan).
Space is limited and time is short, so if you're interested, Bonnie Dockham, the Community's Program Director, would be happy to tell you more. She can be reached at 734-975-2500 or by email. More information is also available in the Community's newsletter.
Finding our way after treatment ends can be challenging, but no one needs to go it alone. Cancer Transitions can expedite recovery and get us back to enjoying life faster. And take it from me: there's lots of life — great life — after cancer.
Dear Readers: Candid Cancer resumes on Fridays beginning April 1.
Friday, April 1: War As A Metaphor For Cancer Can Be Relieved of Duty.
Previous installments of Candid Cancer are archived here.
Betsy de Parry is the author of The Roller Coaster Chronicles, a book about her experience with cancer and the shorter, serialized version she wrote for annarbor.com. Find her on Facebook or email her.