While women receive a lot of support, advice and medical care when breast cancer is diagnosed and treatments are under way, the ground swelling of assistance often evaporates after treatments are complete. For many women, the years after treatments begin with a defining of a whole new “normal” that isn’t necessarily easy to navigate. With lingering side effects, such as pain and weakness common and plaguing concerns about recurrence, gaining an upper hand on what comes next isn’t always easy.
As late as 2003, breast cancer survivors were finding that little help and little information was available. That changed with research kicked off by Harvard Medical School’s Julie Silver. In her book, “After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Better Stronger,” she offers research-based information on how to overcome some of the effects treatments dish out. There’s also a Survivorship Training and Rehab program Silver kicked off to enable medical facilities to gain training they need to help patients better manage their post-treatment lives.
So, what can women expect in the days, months and years following treatment?
Here are a few recovery steps recommended:
* Taking stock – The first step to recovery, according to the American Cancer Society, is to take a step back and assess the emotional journey. Being diagnosed with cancer and battling through treatments can take a big toll. Taking time out to acknowledge the stress, anxiety and emotional toll can set the stage for a more positive recovery.
* Understanding future medical needs – Checkups will likely be part of the routine and they can come with their own share of anxiety and pitfalls. Patients may find they need additional treatments and follow up medications. Gaining an understanding of what to expect can help take some of the worry away.
* Taking good care personally – Eating right, exercising and gaining control over life, in as much as possible, can help cancer survivors gain a whole new lease on life. While worries about recurrence may not go away in the immediate future, learning to embrace each new day and live life to the fullest is possible.
Life after cancer treatments won’t always be the same as before. Women who seek out support and take time out for themselves as the new “normal’ is defined, however, are likely to find it’s possible to regain much of that “old life.”
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