There are many definitions of a “cancer survivor”. We use “cancer survivor” to describe people who have finished, and are recovering from, cancer treatment. After your cancer treatments are finished, you will receive follow-up care to make sure you are recovering and that your cancer has not returned.
Finishing cancer treatment can be a time of highs and lows. For some people, going back to “normal life” or a “new normal” isn’t easy. Some people may feel lost because they are no longer receiving active treatment; others may have a hard time adjusting to not seeing their health care team regularly. Along with the relief you might feel at finishing your treatment, it is normal to have concerns about your future. Many cancer patients say that returning to life after cancer is a journey in itself.
Many people who have had cancer find that talking with a professional counsellor or therapist can be very helpful. Health care providers are experts in treating cancer, but you are the expert in the way that cancer affects your life. Counselling can help you to:
The psychosocial cancer team at the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre helps people who have been diagnosed with and treated for cancer anywhere in Nova Scotia. The team provides counselling to cancer patients and their families. You can go to counselling on your own or with your family member(s).
Team members include:
Support can be provided in person or by phone. Although you may be medically discharged from the Cancer Program, the psychosocial cancer team is still available to help you. For more information, please call the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre (Halifax). If you live in Sydney, please call the social worker at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre. If you live outside of Halifax and Sydney, please talk with your Cancer Patient Navigator, social worker or health care provider about services in your area.
Private Medical Insurance and Employee Assistance Programs
Counselling is also covered under some private insurance plans (e.g., Blue Cross). There may be a yearly maximum for how much your plan will pay. Contact your insurer to ask about your plan.
Many employers also offer Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs), which offer a limited number of free counselling sessions. Please contact your Human Resources department for information.
A support group is a group of people with similar concerns who meet on a regular basis. There are many different cancer support groups, including those for patients, family and/or friends and those that are open to anyone. Groups may be led by a health care professional or made up completely of peers. You can find support groups that meet in person or online.
You may want to check out a few different groups to find one that works best for you. It may help to talk with the group leader to see if the group offers what you need. It is hard to know if a support group will be right for you without going to at least 2 meetings. A support group should make you feel comfortable enough to talk about what you think and feel. If it does not, talk with the group leader privately. You may decide it is best to stop going. Remember that it may take time to find a group that fits.Many people choose online support groups. These groups help people who may not wish to attend a group in person. Be careful when looking for an online group. Anyone with internet access can create an online group, even if they do not have any real experience. To find an online group, visit Cancer Chat Canada.
Finishing cancer treatment can be a time of highs and lows. Along with the relief you may feel, it is normal to have concerns about your recovery and your future.
The Living Beyond Cancer Video Series gives information about what to expect after your cancer treatment. Topics include:
You can request these items from your local public library. If your library does not have a copy of the item, you can ask your public library to request it for you through interlibrary loan (ILL).