Life is not the same after cancer for the survivor or for those who love him or her. When someone you care about has or has had cancer, it requires you to be flexible and to develop a “new normal.” For survivorship, this means incorporating the realities of cancer into your future dreams. It does NOT mean giving up your dreams (retiring to an island, traveling, fishing for hours…), just adjusting your dreams to fit current circumstances. As circumstances change (and they will, of course, because that’s the way life works), your new normal may also change.
As time goes on, life may feel like it used to, especially as the cancer survivor regains energy and returns to previous routines. However, unwelcome reminders may come up: perhaps through a regular follow-up appointment; a new lump; or a fever. These events can trigger a cascade of fear and worry in both the survivor and in those close to him or her. You may find yourself up in the middle of the night, once again unable to concentrate at work, and/or edgy until you get the “all clear” signal that everything is all right (e.g., the mammogram showed nothing unexpected, the fever went away).
A roller-coaster of feelings will become part of your new normal. Over time, individuals learn to recognize the pattern of ups and downs, and hopefully both you and your loved one will be able to prepare for, and manage, the pattern.
When Moments Are Upsetting
As time goes by, most survivors will think about cancer less often. However, some events may cause people to become worried or anxious, such as a new symptom that develops, a family member’s illness, a follow-up appointment, or the anniversary of the date of diagnosis. Caregivers can provide comfort if or when these feelings emerge by recognizing that this is normal during the recovery phase.