Dealing with fears after treatment is over can be particularly hard. You’re no longer in the embrace of your hospital or treatment centre. They’ve waved you off into the sunset with promises of appointment letters in the future. Your little boat is released from the mother ship and you sail away on your own. And boy, it can be a scary time.
Suddenly you’re faced with days stretching ahead of you with no treatment plans or appointments. You wonder if you’ll be ok now, whether your cancer will come back, whether it’s back right now and you don’t know it yet. Every minor ache and pain is sudden cause for concern. What is that? Why is it here? What do I do about it? What does it mean? On and on, the washing machine of your mind goes.
So how do you deal with this new phase? Perhaps you decide to go back to work, and re-immerse yourself in the day-to-day of completing a job that has nothing to do with cancer. Perhaps you have a new outlook on your world, and decide to make some major life changes. Perhaps a new job, a new home, even a new city. Perhaps you take everything in your stride and just keep going, head down, one foot in front of the other.
Fears at this point are inevitable. They’re completely normal. They’re part of the package deal. So let’s treat them as such, just as we would any other symptom. Acknowledge them, address them, deal with them. The following are my personal strategies for dealing with fears after treatment is over. Perhaps they might help you, or prompt you to think what your own strategies are.
1. Stop listening to yourself, start talking to yourself
My greatest fear at the moment is of my cancer returning. I think about it every day. I try not to, but it seems my brain likes to repeat it. I firmly tell myself that no, it’s not coming back. Not now, not ever. I put on a motivational video on YouTube like this one or this one. I listen to them as I make my breakfast, and breakfast for my little boy. I put on some uplifting music, we have a little dance in the kitchen. Then we tidy up and get out into the day, whatever the weather. We go for a walk, breathe in deeply, admire the blue sky and sunshine, think of Spring, think of all we have to be grateful for. We talk to the fear, tell it to go away, not here, not today, you’re not welcome. And it does work.
2. Continue your own treatment plan
You may no longer be receiving medical treatment. And strangely, it might be scary not to have tablets to take, or appointments to attend. Continue your own treatment plan by creating an Anti-Cancer Plan. Visit a naturopath and have a herbal remedy made for you. Ask their advice on what vitamins and supplements you could use to best support your body after the formal treatment you received. Support your immune system by beginning to take a probiotic. Make it your priority to get at least thirty minutes of activity every day. Take up yoga, go for an aromatherapy massage, learn to paint. Make small but lasting changes to your health by incorporating in more vegetables, more water, more sleep and less sugar, less processed foods, less stress. If you had breast cancer, check your breasts and underarms weekly. Research any other changes you’d like to make. Write it all down, stick it on the fridge, follow it every day. This gives you control.
3. Avoid that which does not serve you
I struggle to read heartbreaking illness stories in the news. In fact, I don’t even look at the news anymore. But the stories seem to find me anyhow, in my Facebook feed, on my Twitter homepage, in a newspaper headline at a supermarket checkout. I see them and my breath catches in my throat. I move past quickly, pretend I haven’t seen it, or sometimes I have a look and my heart falls into the pit of my stomach. These stories don’t help, so I delete the sources that seem to be sending them to me. If it’s not helping, it’s not getting air time with me while I feel this way.
4. Do the things that lift your spirits
Things that do help are having a good laugh. Michael McIntyre does it for me – he really makes me giggle. Or visiting a good friend who makes things seem so much more possible than before they arrived. Calling my mom. Going for a little shopping trip. Sometimes it’s just a cup of coffee at my local Starbucks with my little boy for company. It’s these small acts of self-care that help me along.
5. Do something that gives you purpose, and occupies your mind
Happy Magazine is a wonderful therapy too. Thinking of the next day’s post, writing it, answering emails, seeking opportunities – it fills my mind with positive purpose, it fills my quieter moments with something meaningful.
6. Tackle your problem times, head-on
Late at night has never been a good time for me. I’m tired and the fears start to creep back in again. I have a bedtime routine which helps. I leave my mobile phone downstairs. I fill a hot water bottle and make a cup of my herbal remedy tea. I head upstairs, turn on my salt lamp and bedside lamp and brush my teeth. I settle into bed, propped up with pillows, and read. Sometimes a book, sometimes a magazine, sometimes a cookbook. I have a Po-Ho inhaler of essential oils, sometimes I breathe that in with ten deep breaths – it’s wonderfully calming.
When I lie down to sleep, I visualise. I think about my body filling with stripes of white healing light. Starting at the very top of my head and spreading down, behind my eyes, behind my nose, behind my mouth, filling my head. Moving down into my neck, my chest, my tummy, right down to my toes. Until all of me is filled with this blinding, healing light and I am glowing from the inside. I don’t always make it all the way to my toes before sleep takes over. I find this a great way to fall asleep.
I hope this article has helped you. Please do let me know in the comments if it has, or what your own strategies are for dealing with your fears after treatment is over.