Moving Beyond Cancer

The end of treatment can be both exciting and stressful – for many, it brings equal parts celebration and worry. You may find life returns to what you knew before you had cancer, but for others, the physical and emotional changes don’t all disappear with the last treatment.

Physical side effects, such as fatigue, lack of stamina, difficulty focusing, or incontinence, can last for months after treatment ends. Emotional effects, including fear of a cancer reoccurrence, dying young or leaving things undone, can create ongoing anxiety or depression. Tackling these issues is often easier with the help of experts.

Giving you the physical and emotional support you need to regain your quality of life is what our Cancer Rehabilitation and Wellness Program is all about. One of the few programs of its kind in the state, we successfully help cancer survivors—whether living with cancer, in remission, or cured—recover more completely and quickly. For more information on how this program can help you, please call (714) 578-8753.

While cancer treatment may have taken up much of your time and energy, now you can focus on getting as healthy as possible and maybe even looking at your life in new ways. Start making small changes that can improve your well-being and health.

Don't Go it Alone

It’s not just during treatment that you will need to lean on others for strength and comfort. Find sources of support from family, friends, church groups or a counselor. Equally important, join a cancer support group (click here for meeting times). It can be extremely helpful to share experiences and give and take advice from other cancer survivors. Whether a formal support group, church friends, or a counselor, make sure you have a place to go with concerns.

If you find yourself feeling anxious or worried, going it alone will only make your sense of distress stronger. Being able to talk about your fears with friends, family and other cancer survivors is a good starting point for effective coping. If you need help finding the necessary support, talk to one of our oncology social workers, our spiritual care team, or your priest or pastor.

Exercise Regularly

Regardless of how active you were prior to diagnosis, exercise after cancer treatment can improve your fitness, increase muscle strength, reduce fatigue, lessen anxiety, and make you feel better about yourself. There is some evidence that a healthy weight, eating right, and being physically active can help reduce the risk of cancer reoccurring as well as other serious chronic diseases.

The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors take these steps:

  • Take part in regular physical activity
  • Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes per week
  • Include strength training exercises at least two days per week.

Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. This is especially important if your treatment affected your lungs, your heart, or if you are at risk for lung or heart disease. If you were inactive before cancer treatment, you may need to start slowly, such as a short, brisk walk.

Be sure you understand what you can and can’t do - and get help. While some people can safely begin or maintain their own exercise program, many will have better results with support. We offer experts in exercise and rehabilitation who specialize in helping cancer survivors get active. Our Cancer Rehabilitation and Wellness Program will help you find the type of exercise that’s right for you and offer the support and encouragement you need. Call us at (714) 578-8753.

Eat Healthy

One of the best things you can do after treatment is put healthy eating habits into place. Try to eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day. Choose whole grain foods instead of white flour and sugars. Replace red meat with fish and chicken. Stay away from hydrogenated oils and saturated fats, and choose healthy fats like olive oil and avocados. Cut back on processed meats like hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, and stock up on beans, nuts and seeds.

Eating a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of fish, fruits and vegetables can help you feel better and improve your health. If needed, it can also help you lose weight. Obesity is linked with a higher risk of developing some cancers, so use regular exercise and nutritious meals to get to a healthy weight.

If treatment side effects, such as loss of appetite, changes in taste, or nausea, are getting in the way, try eating small meals every two hours and talk to your doctor, or our oncology-certified registered dietitian, about how to maximize your nutrition. At no charge, our experienced dietitian will help you meet your individual goals.

A free class and support group is also available - called Journey to Health - which provides education and camaraderie for those who have completed treatment and want to improve their health and manage their weight. To join, or to schedule a free appointment with our registered dietitian, please call (714) 446-5982.

Checking in With Your Doctor

For years after treatment ends, you’ll see your doctor for follow-up. Ask for and write down a proposed schedule for follow-up visits and the recommended testing to monitor your recovery. You’ll also want to know what signs to look for to detect a cancer reoccurrence as early as possible and to recognize any long-term side effects of treatment. For example, if you received a medication that might affect your bone density, find out how your bones can be monitored in the future and what treatments are available.

These check-ups and follow-up tests or scans are an important part of maintaining your health and a chance for you to talk to your doctor about new questions or issues. Yet it’s normal to feel anxious before appointments.

To help with the anxiety, write down any questions you have about symptoms, emotional aspects of survivorship, or even practical issues. Ask a friend or family member to sit with you while you wait for your scans or go with you to doctors’ visits. In the days before your appointment, schedule activities that can help distract you from worrying, such as an exercise class and having lunch with a friend. Talk to your doctor or one of our oncology social workers about how you can get help if your anxiety persists or becomes overwhelming.

Moving on Emotionally

For many, there is the ever-present thought that at any moment, a scan or test may move them from survivorship right back into active cancer treatment. While that fear is completely normal, the unique challenge facing survivors is to get on with living, celebrate the joys of the present, and recognize when you need help - and ask for it.

Celebrate milestones, such as the anniversary of the end of chemotherapy, the date of your cancer diagnosis, or the anniversary of the surgery to treat your cancer. Consider volunteering for a non-profit organization or a cancer mentoring program, or get involved in your church’s outreach or mission efforts - find something meaningful to add to your life.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety or worry and unable to move forward in your life, get help from one of our oncology social workers, a counselor, or your priest or pastor.

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