by Sarah A.O. Isenberg
also by Sarah: Transition, Cancer is a Catalyst
It’s with a heavy heart, a pit in my stomach, and tears in my eyes that I write this essay on survivorship. Yesterday, they buried a woman who played a pivotal role in my cancer experience. Her name was Harriet. She was a psychologist who worked with an organization dedicated to helping people living with cancer navigate the experience. From support groups to art therapy to journaling groups to qi gong, this community served as a haven for people living with cancer. A place to go where so much was understood from the get-go. Where there were no platitudes. Where people were real: They understood the gravity of the situation; that some of us would be lucky and survive the ordeal, and that some of us wouldn’t, but that the “ride” along the way mattered, so much.
by Diane Townsend, MSW, Department of Social Service, Adult Sites McGill University Health Centre
Now that your treatment has ended, you may find yourself flooded with a range of emotions from relief and joy to guilt, fear and anxiety. You may experience all these feelings at the same time. This is normal as each individual’s experience is unique to them. Life after cancer involves many physical and emotional changes as you adjust to a “new normal” way of life. You may find that different things are more important to you now as your priorities may have changed after having cancer. Some people may wish to return to their jobs soon after completing treatment in order to feel that they are resuming the way of life they had before the cancer diagnosis. Others may wish to not return to work right away, preferring to take some time to rest and reflect on how they wish to spend their time. Family, friends and colleagues may not understand that you will likely not be able to immediately “bounce back” to former routines and activities, as you may continue to experience fatigue and temporary cognitive changes during your recovery.
We asked our Current Oncology Section Editors how they would define the term “life after cancer” and how that theme presents itself in their chosen fields. Below is a response from Dr. George Shenouda, Department of Radiation Oncology, Montreal General Hospital:
Since the turn of the century, cancer has become the leading cause of death in adults. Due to an aging population and advances in screening and early diagnosis, more and more patients will be diagnosed and cured from their cancers. These patients will undergo oncological treatments which have a significant impact on the rest of their lives.