Life after Cancer
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
JANUARY 24, 2017
The remarkable thing about today's article is not the content, but the source. From Harvard Women's Health Watch comes this summary of issues faced by most people as we complete active therapy and try to move on with our lives. It does not contain any information that you likely don't already know, but it is striking that the conversation about cancer survivorship is making its way to pretty mainstream publications.
My all time favorite description of this period came from a woman twenty years ago. She had recently completed therapy for breast cancer and was one of the unlucky ones who had experienced every possible glitch and side effect. She described trying to pick up the pieces of her personal and professional lives this way: My life is a bombed out city. I need to start rebuilding house by house. block by block--and, to begin, brick by brick.
Adapting to life after cancer
Once you've completed treatment, adjusting to a "new normal" can be challenging.
Completing cancer therapy can feel like a graduation. You've done some hard work, it's paid off, and you may be ready to celebrate. But saying goodbye to treatment can arouse many of the emotions and uncertainties associated with beginning a new chapter in life.
Dr. Larissa Nekhlyudov is a general internist who works with cancer survivors at two Harvard affiliates, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She acknowledges that cancer survivors have a lot to deal with. "Once you've had your final chemotherapy infusion or swallowed the last pill, you may find yourself facing a new set of challenges—monitoring yourself for signs of recurrence, getting recommended follow-up care, adjusting to the long-term effects of treatment, psychologically adapting to normal life, and working to stay in good health," Dr. Nekhlyudov says.