What Comes After “Cancer-Free”

The day you are declared cancer-free, everyone sighs a deep sigh of relief. They tell you it’s all okay now, time to celebrate and move on with your life. What they don’t know is that on that day, the day you are declared cancer-free, that’s when the long-term challenge begins. As everybody touched by your diagnosis moves forward with their lives, they expect you to do the same, but your old life, your old self is gone, and you no longer know who you are or how to live as a cancer survivor.

With that cancer diagnosis, came a map with everything laid out for you, doctor appointments, treatment schedule, the many tests. Upon being declared “cancer-free,” all that scheduling and the road map just vanish. There’s no going back to who you were because you’ve changed. The anxiety kicks in and while everyone else moves on, you wake up and go to sleep with the fear that the Cancer could come back. In many ways, this is when you most need someone to hold your hand, to accompany you for those routine tests that feel anything but “routine”.

Post-treatment depression is not only real, it happens to most of us. I found that I needed companionship, love, understanding, security, hope the most after I was declared cancer-free. While I was going through treatment, I focused on the finish line but when I reached that line, I found myself more vulnerable and more anxious than ever, but I couldn’t tell those who love me. They had been through so much already, how could I tell them that I wasn’t ok? The key is to reach out to someone when you experience post-treatment depression, be it friends, family, a doctor, counselor or therapist. There is help and it is okay to not feel okay.

by Maryann Szucs

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