One day you’re in active treatment for breast cancer, and the next, you’re not. You might feel an immediate sense of gratitude and relief that you’re still here and that the worst may be over. At the same time, you still feel the side effects of treatment. Follow-up medical appointments still populate your calendar. You may have expected to feel “normal” at this point, but you don’t.
Since the initial focus is on treatment, the aftereffects can come as a shock. If life after breast cancer has you feeling stuck, you’re not alone.
Your Treatments Are Over. Now What?
Life after breast cancer can be demanding in an entirely different way, and there’s no “right” way to feel about it. Your post-treatment experience is unique to you and your circumstances. You may look healthy on the outside, but on the inside, you’re still recovering physically and emotionally.
After breast cancer, you may not feel the same as you once did about your health and body. Many women feel vulnerable and self-conscious about their body image and sexuality, unable to trust a body that seems to have let them down.
If you’re grappling with fatigue, pain, or sleep problems, you’re likely wondering how long they’ll last. And your diagnosis and treatment may have left you feeling like you need to get used to your body all over again.
The roller coaster of emotions accompanying a breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t end once you’ve completed chemotherapy. Most survivors find they need even more support after their treatments are over. You probably think you should feel happy because you survived the diagnosis and feel guilty or confused if you don’t.
Your emotions will catch up with you now that the treatment is over. Many people don’t expect negative emotions once their treatment ends and find this confusing.
Fear of Recurrence
It’s normal to feel anxious or frightened about cancer coming back. No matter how much you remind yourself of everything you and your healthcare team have done—surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and medications like tamoxifen to prevent a recurrence—that fear can remain.
Adjusting to Life After Cancer Treatment
The following tips may help you settle into life after treatment:
- Give yourself time to adjust. Try to take each day as it comes and accept that you’ll have both good and bad days.
- Talk to your treatment team about your risk of recurrence and how to manage it. Ask about symptoms to look for and how to distinguish normal aches, pain, or sickness from cancer symptoms. Knowing your body and taking time to educate yourself about breast cancer can help you feel less anxious.
- Make changes to improve your quality of life. Eating healthy food and being physically active helps your body cope with physical and emotional stress and allows you to take practical steps to help prevent a recurrence.
- Acknowledge your feelings. It may help to share your concerns or worries with your family, friends, doctor, psychologist, or counselor. Connecting with others who’ve been through a similar experience helps.
- Think about what makes you feel fulfilled or happy, what gives your life meaning, and what’s most important to you. Make time each day to do something you find relaxing or enjoyable.
Life After Breast Cancer: Choosing Your Own Way Forward
Life after breast cancer will have its ups and downs. Over time, most cancer survivors find a new way of living—a new normal. The time it takes to reach your new normal will be unique to you.
Bedford Breast Center in Beverly Hills, CA, provides personalized, compassionate care and is dedicated to helping you throughout your experience. Our center serves women from Los Angeles, Southern California, and across the country. To learn more, call us at (310) 278-8590 or contact us to schedule an appointment.