The team will also help you to set a plan in place to help with your recovery. You may experience a huge sense of relief when treatment ends but you may still experience some lingering side effects from the treatment, as these can take a few weeks or months to subside. You may also find that you are experiencing a range of other emotions once treatment ends. These can be anything from relief to being fearful and unsure about the future and anxiety. It is important to talk through these emotions with a friend, a family member or a member of your care team who can support you.
At the end of treatment, most patients are given the details of a person they can contact after treatment finishes. This person could be called your “key worker” and may be a specialist nurse or another member of the care team. Your GP is another port of call if you have any questions or concerns.
After your treatment ends you will usually see your cancer team for regular follow-up care. How often you see them depends on several factors:
It is natural to feel worried before an appointment. Often revisiting the hospital can bring up old memories of your journey and remind you of what you have been through. On the other hand, it can also show you how far you have come.
There are different types of follow-up care. In most cases, you may see the cancer team more regularly in the first year or the first few years after your treatment ends. After this, the number of follow-up appointments may change and slow.
The follow-up appointment:
These follow-up appointments aim to make sure you are doing well. In some cases, you may be asked for a blood test or a scan before your appointment. These tests can help the doctors see how you are doing. It may also help them to quickly pick up any abnormalities that may indicate that cancer has returned.
The doctor or nurse may examine you and do some quick and simple tests (like a blood sample). This is a chance for you to have a chat with your cancer team about any issues you are facing, such as side effects to the treatment which may be ongoing. This is also a good chance to tell them if you have noticed or experienced any new symptoms.
You need to attend these appointments. If you do not attend, it is very difficult for your cancer team to monitor your recovery. They will not be able to pick up on any problems or issues you are facing if you do not attend. If there is any problem and you cannot attend, please let the cancer care team know ahead of time and they will reschedule for you.
If you need to access any other services, the team can help to arrange that for you as well. For example, specialist services like a psychologist or a counsellor for emotional support or a physiotherapist for recovery exercises.
Recovery after cancer is different for each patient. Although you may feel relieved about the treatment being over, it is completely normal to have mixed emotions. It is normal to have good days, where you feel happy and optimistic and some bad days, when you may feel anxious, scared, resentful or uncertain of what your future holds for you. Cancer patients who have been given the all-clear or who are in remission often find themselves being extra cautious about any new changes within their body or how they are feeling.
Although it is true that after treatment you are now a different person from who you were before your cancer diagnosis, there is no reason why you would not be able to live a fulfilling life. This period is all about discovering your “new normal.” This process can take time so please be patient with yourself as you adjust.
You may wish to start thinking about doing the things that were normal for you before treatment, like getting back into work or education again. You may also wish to get back into old hobbies or develop new ones. Many people find exercise to be a good hobby to start at this time.
Whatever you decide to do, please remember to give yourself time. Recovery is not a sprint but a marathon. On some days you will feel great and be able to do everything you set out to do. On other days you might not. You may need to build up your physical strength again. Sometimes this recovery is more about your emotions than the physical side. It may take time to build up your self-confidence again. Please remember that all of this is possible with time and the right support.
In some cases, treatment can cause eating problems. If this is true for you, please follow the advice of your cancer care team, dietitian or GP.
Your diet may need to be altered if you have had any treatments which may affect your digestive tract, for example, surgery to the bowel or radiotherapy to the pelvic region. Please adhere to the advice of your doctor and care team.