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Life after Cancer is anything but easy. Treatments have taken a serious toll on your body, both mentally and physically, with side effects that linger long after treatment has ended.
I was diagnosed in September of 2016, and while my treatments and two surgeries seemed to go by in a blur, they were not without anger, frustration, and sadness as every day was a constant struggle to adjust to what my new “normal” would be. There would be days where I barely had enough energy to get out of bed, others where I was in so much physical pain that it felt like my entire body had been run over by a freight train, and the tears when I would look in the mirror post-surgery and be so upset by how Cancer had disfigured my body, making me wonder if I would look normal ever again.
With a lot of trial and error, I have identified a few simple tips that have helped me move on with life after cancer, and attack each day with a positive outlook, instead of a negative one.
Your brain may not function as well as it used to
More commonly known as Chemo Brain, there is a good chance you have noticed that your brain is not functioning like it used to. You may find yourself forgetting simple things, like, did I clean the litterbox today, or remembering to remind your significant other to complete a certain task. For me, there have been days where I have felt like huge gaps in my day have gone missing. I can’t remember for the life of me what I did, or if I accomplished what I needed to do.
How to Deal With It:
1. Utilize electronic Calendars
One of my first struggles was trying to remember when all my doctor’s appointments were. Sure I had them on a calendar in our kitchen, but many times I would forget to remind my husband, which would cause problems, especially if it was an appointment that he needed to leave work early for. I began utilizing the calendar on my iPhone, which was shared with my husband, so he could check the calendar for any given day and know whether or not a doctor’s appointment was scheduled.
2. Write Down Your To-Do’s
Prior to Breast Cancer, I could easily keep track of all my to-do’s in my head, but cancer treatments took such a huge toll on my mind, that I could barely make it through the day without first writing down the day’s tasks. I started utilizing a task list in my daily planner so I would have a reference that I could easily check off when the task was completed. This has helped me greatly in a few ways. It ensures I don’t forget to do something, and also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can mark something as completed.
3. Take Notes When Learning New Skills
One of the hardest things with life after cancer is learning new things. I personally experienced this when my manager would show me a new task and in the past, I could easily make sense of the task at hand and had no issues with coming up with questions on what I did not understand or I needed clarification on. My post-treatment brain made me feel like a deer in the headlights on most days. I could hear the words, but I could not comprehend anything that was shown to me.
In order to try and absorb new things, do your best to take detailed notes on any new task that you learn. Don’t assume that you will remember a specific step because you will likely be surprised to find that days, if not even hours later, you will not be able to remember key things you were told. At least with it all written down, you have something to refer to, instead of depending on your brain.
Allow your body time to rest and heal
The biggest struggle with cancer treatment is that the treatments and the side effects that come along with them rob you of the life you have been so accustomed to living. Tasks you used to take care of on your own, need to be handled by a friend or family member because you just don’t have the strength or energy to do it yourself. This can make you feel useless and a burden to others, and it is one of the hardest things to come to grips with.
How to Deal With It:
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help:
As you heal from treatment, it will take time for your body to be able to handle the tasks that you used to do prior to your diagnosis. Instead of feeling frustrated over what you can’t do, be proud of all that you have achieved. Allow yourself to accept the fact that it’s completely OK to ask for help during this transition period.
2. Rest When You Need To:
Like it or not, your body just went through one hell of a battle with itself, and if you’re reading this you won that battle and have kicked Cancer into remission, but the journey is still far from over. While the doctors may no longer be pumping you full of medications to kill cancer, the effects of your treatments will linger long after treatment has finished. You will need to listen to your body, and allow yourself to rest when you need to. This may mean you will not be able to do certain things, but that is ok. Your health will improve with proper rest and care, allowing you to return to a normal life, whatever that normal may be for you.
These are just a few of the things that have helped me get through the day post-cancer treatment. While I know there will probably be more as I adjust to my own “normal”, I hope that this information has helped point you in a positive direction so you can work towards a life that you will love, your life after Cancer.