After your treatments at the cancer centre or clinics are complete, you will be provided with a follow-up plan to ensure your health is monitored on a regular basis. Your follow-up plan will depend on the type of gynecological cancer you had, as well as the surgery and other cancer treatments you have gone through. Ask your medical team for a copy of your specific plan details.
Transitioning to Cancer Survivor
We all have our own ways of coping with the challenges and issues that arise in our lives. You may be surprised by the feelings and emotions that surface after you have ended your cancer treatments. Common themes include: trying to “find yourself”, taking a new look at your life and spiritual ideas, as well as changes to your body and energy. Some women have said the end of treatment can bring with it a feeling of being “left on their own at the edge of a cliff, afraid to take a step forward”. It is important to realize there will come a time when you will transition from being an active patient to living as a survivor (a person who has gone through a cancer experience).
Take Back Control
While everyone varies in how much medical information they need, want and find helpful, you may wish to know more about your cancer. Once treatment is over, you may want to create your own program for wellness, to take control of your overall health. This ability to take control may assist in dealing with issues such as fatigue and sadness – the physical and emotional side of cancer. See the “Making Healthy Choices” Section in this guide.
Fatigue is the kind of chronic tiredness that a good night’s sleep does not seem to help and its effects may last longer than you expect. This can lead to frustration or longing for the energy you used to have. Fatigue can often be managed and energy can be regained over time. In the meantime, choose how you use your limited energy in your day-to-day tasks.
Getting Clear on Life’s Priorities
Many patients tell us that cancer has allowed them to clean house, to clear the clutter in their lives of both people and things. Some take a clear look at their relationships with others, change careers that no longer fit, stop activities that are no longer rewarding, or simply vow to be more selective in how they spend their time and energy. The bittersweet gift of cancer is to perhaps value life more intensely – and to be committed to not wasting a moment. Many women report they begin to pursue heartfelt moments that make them feel good!
Making Sense, Finding Meaning
Some women find great comfort in drawing on personal spiritual beliefs. Some refer to a higher purpose in their lives. Perhaps cancer has lessons to teach us. Exploring those lessons and your own beliefs may be something you are drawn to. Even people who are not spiritual report feeling they have been given a “second chance” at living their lives and do so with gusto.
Connection and Support
Often, survivors tell us that they have a renewed appreciation for their relationships with friends and family. They may develop an intimacy by connecting and speaking with others who have travelled this journey. Support groups, one-on-one peer conversations and, in some cases, professional counselling can assist you in coping with your new life.
Brain Fog (Chemo Brain)
Some people, whether due to the stress of the cancer experience or due to the toxicity of the drugs, may experience brain fog. Brain fog is defined as difficulty in thinking, memory loss (forgetting names), not being able to focus for long periods and having trouble doing one or more tasks at a time. Brain Fog is usually temporary and you may find some of the resources in this section helpful.
For many, dealing with the fear of recurrence (the cancer coming back) is too much. For those who come to some peace or resolution about living with this fear, it seems that “action may be the best antidote for anxiety”. You may wish to take control of factors that you can control, such as diet, exercise and stress. Try to “let go” of the rest. It may help to connect and talk openly with other cancer patients who understand your feelings since they have been there too.
Picking up the Pieces by Sherri Magee & Kathy Scalzo
Dancing in Limbo by Glenna Halvorson-Boyd
Your Brain After Chemo by Daniel Silverman & Idelle Davidson
Intimacy after Cancer: A Woman’s Guide by Sally Kydd & Diane Rowett
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Vocational Rehabilitation counselling includes helping patients access resources, develop a plan to return to work or remain employed during treatment, and assisting with understanding insurance benefits and services.
Counselling related to life planning and goal setting is also available, as well as information online.
Patient and Family Counselling Services
Professionally led support groups for women, caregivers and children.