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Follow up care and finding your purpose after cancer

Follow up care and finding your purpose after cancer

The journey through cancer and its treatment and survival is long, and it is natural for the survivors to feel the need to return to their everyday, functioning life as soon as possible. While this urge is justified and the survival itself is an achievement that needs to be celebrated, there are a number of things that cancer survivors must follow in terms of their physical and mental health for them to recover and live their lives more efficiently. 

The process of going through the journey of cancer, from when it was discovered in a person’s body to the procedures that they go through to fight cancer, is a tedious progress and has excellent effects on the mental and physical health of a person and care should be taken to ensure that the survivor manages the side effects caused by the treatment and regain their original health. The care given to patients after the treatment is over is called follow up care, and a team of doctors monitors them to ensure there is no recurrence while also giving them guidance for months or years to come, based on their individual records. 

Follow up care for physical health

Ensuring follow up care for the physical care of the survivor includes a combination of steps such as monitoring the body for recurrence, managing the long-term and late side effects of the disease by analysing the personal health records of the patient and providing guidance on a diet, physical exercise and other steps to be taken to improve and build the stamina in the body. 

Monitoring recurrence

Recurrent cancer is when cancer comes back even after the treatment since there are cancer cells in the body that remain undetected. These undetected cells may continue to grow in the body until they are noticeable in tests. The chances of recurrence in a person depend on the type and stage of cancer they initially had since this information directly affects where the area of recurrence is. While it is impossible to tell which patient will experience recurrent cancer, the doctors who are familiar with the patient’s medical history can give them a more personalised treatment and follow up care based on their records.

Managing side effects

While the side effects that occur during the course of treatment are treated accordingly by the doctors, there are a few side effects that exist beyond the course of treatment and these are called long-term side effects. In some cases, side effects appear months or years after the treatment is over, and these are called late side effects. Depending on the type of cancer that a person has, the doctor suggests specific tests based on whether the risk of developing long-term or late side effects is more or not. 

Personal guidance based on health records

On the basis of a person’s health record, which will contain information on the type and stage of cancer they had, their health before cancer, and previous diseases they had, the follow-up care team will provide guidance on the kind of diet they should have, the exercise routine they should follow and general instructions on the things they should avoid for a quicker and healthier recovery. While the guidance will consist of general advice on diet, exercise and regular activities, it will also include targeted medicines and treatments to prevent further decline in health and ensure recovery. 

Care for mental health and recovery

While the patients couldn’t wait for the day they would finish their cancer treatment and return to their everyday life, it can be challenging to leave the safety of the doctors who helped them and go back into their life and regular routine. 

With cancer treatment coming to an end, the survivor is likely to spend less time with the doctors and cancer care team, and they are bound to go through a lot of emotions while adjusting back to their life. All the confusing feelings that the survivors go through during this time are completely normal and valid. The follow-up care they get after cancer treatment is not just for their physical health but also to manage their mental health. Some fears are common amongst cancer survivors that can be addressed and processed in a healthy, safe space.

Fear of recurrence

Fear of recurrence is widespread amongst cancer survivors. Even though a survivor can go on for years without any signs of recurrence, the fear and worry that any pain or ache is a sign of the recurring disease stays with them. Survivors are advised to be open about their fears and thoughts to their doctors and consult if they have any doubts to ease their worries. Taking care of their general physical health according to the doctor’s advice, being regular with follow up appointments so that the chances of recurrence are minimal and keeping themselves busy so that the intrusive thoughts are kept minimal are also some steps that the survivors should follow to reduce their fear of recurrence. 

Managing stress and anxiety

Throughout the treatment, the patient would have focused and emotionally invested in the process. After the completion, several things will demand their attention when they return to their regular lives. This can be very overwhelming, and they must focus on taking up the tasks one at a time. They should make sure they balance between work and taking care of themselves to ensure balance, so they don’t burn out. 

The feelings and emotions they had while going through the treatment process may still be pent up, and these lingering feelings can cause anxiety. While for some people, these feelings will dissipate with time, others may develop into depression and anxiety. It is vital that they healthily address these feelings through therapy and medication recommended by their follow up care team. 

Feelings of Self-consciousness and loneliness

There are a lot of significant changes that a survivor goes through in terms of their body and mentality, and these changes can be the root of self-consciousness that strains their relationships. While it is natural for a person to take time and grieve the changes that have happened, it is also vital to make sure that they understand and realise how the disease has made them stronger and focus on the positive outcomes of the process. 

With the patient’s returning to the regular routine, they tend to feel like no one around understands what they have been through and feel alien to their surroundings. While friends and family can only support them to an extent, survivors should join support groups, where they can meet people who’ve had similar experiences they can share, which will improve their confidence and morale.

Finding yourself

Each person’s experience and process with cancer is different and unique. While there are a lot of new ways of help and support that can be offered by external factors like friends, family and the follow-up care team, it is vital that the survivor engages and takes care of themselves in a way that the aftercare for cancer is utilised to its full extent so that they can lead a more regular and healthy life. With the extent of medical advancements that have happened in the past few years, the quality of cancer care and follow-up care have increased immensely to support the affected people and their loved ones in the best possible way for their quickest return to everyday life.

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