The fear that cancer will return can interfere with every aspect of a person’s life — eating, sleeping, working, and playing. It can be triggered by reminders such as follow-up visits, birthdays, someone else’s diagnosis, an ache, or a bump.
Some people prefer not to talk about the fear of recurrence because of superstition, or a concern about causing their loved one to worry. Fear tends to grow in the silence, however, and naming the fear will often empower you. The process of facing fear with the person you love can strengthen your relationship. It is extremely unlikely that the survivor you love has not thought about the possibility that his or her cancer could recur. Your loved one’s doctor and other members of the health care team are good sources of information. When you have questions or concerns about the possibility of cancer recurrence or other health concerns, write them down and discuss them at follow-up appointments.
Tips for Coping With the Fear of Recurrence
- Learn the signs of recurrence.
- Keep up with medical tests or appointments.
- Talk about it. Enable your loved one to express his or her feelings and express your own.
- Encourage your loved one to take control of what he or she can, and know what you cannot control.
- Make plans for the future. Short- and long-term plans always help.