Every cancer survivor lives with the fear of recurrence. Whether it be fear of having to do treatment again, fear of it coming back terminal or just plain fear of losing control of your life again, living with the uncertainty is not easy. People assume that once treatment is over, the battle is over too. But for many survivors, it’s just the beginning of a new emotional struggle. Cancer will always be us. Some of us have anxiety over every ache and pain, some have nightmares about diagnosis, some have intimacy issues with our partners.
While this is a very normal way to feel, we need to find ways to manage it. We can’t control whether cancer will come back, but we can control how that recurrence fear affects our life. This is something we choose. We have the ability to decide whether fear is going to interfere with our ability to enjoy life. We can’t change the fact that we had cancer and there’s a high chance of it coming back, but we can change how we feel about being a cancer survivor and how we are going to live our life. This is our choice.
Ways to help cope with these fears
Living with this uncertainty is now part of our new life. But finding ways to cope and accept this fear can make it easier.
*Acknowledge this fear and the emotions that go with it. Ignoring it can make them worse. The more we avoid it or try to displace it, the more we will actually experience it. Join support groups and talk with friends. Realizing we are not alone gives us a sense of belonging and understanding. Talking about our fears can help us accept them.
*Educate ourselves. Being informed and knowing what to expect or look for, can help lessen the worry.
*Find ways to reduce stress. Exercise, practice mindfulness, our minds can only focus on one thing at a time. Make self-care part of your regular routine.
*Practice gratitude. Gratitude can help keep us grounded. Brings us to the present, focuses on the now. Finding reasons to be grateful won’t change our circumstance, but it can change our perspective. It can keep you hopeful. Gratitude makes room for hope.
*Make a bucket list. Start crossing off the goals you want to achieve, places you want to see, things you want to experience. We can’t let what could happen prevent us from making future plans. This gives you something to look forward to, something to be excited about. Focus on the things you can do instead of what you can’t. The reminder that our time could be limited can actually be a blessing in some ways.
Recurrence fear and anxiety will always be there. But we can choose not to stay there. If our worst fears came to be, and we did have a recurrence, would we look back and wish we had done things differently? Would we wish that we didn’t let fear consume our lives?