Look, I’ll be 100% honest with you here – life after cancer isn’t the easiest thing to deal with. You can swing from feeling on top of the world to feeling like your whole world has been flipped on its head on a daily basis.
And that’s okay. Trust me, it’s completely normal. Plenty of people think that finishing treatment is the easy part – after all, you’ve got through cancer & you’re all better now, right? Well sure, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is smooth sailing either.
Here are the five things I think you should know about life after cancer:
Getting back to ‘normal’ isn’t as easy as it first sounds
The life you leave behind at diagnosis is going to be very different to the one you step into when you finish your treatment. You might feel out of place or like you don’t quite fit in anymore.
I’m a big believer that life after cancer is a new life for you. Your outlook has changed, your body has changed, even your friendship circle might have changed. It’s not enough to fit back into the ‘normal’ you used to know. You’ve got to build yourself back up to get back out there and create the life you know you want.
You will see your body differently
There’s no doubt that your body will be changed through your cancer treatment, whether it’s through surgery, hair loss, weight gain or scarring.
There will be times when you want to rail against your body for allowing cancer to happen in the first place. You might get frustrated that you can’t wear your favourite clothes anymore or style your hair the way you like it.
But then you’ll also want to thank your body for everything it’s got you through. For coping with all of the chemo or radio sessions, for being strong enough to get you this far.
If you find yourself getting frustrated with your body, here’s a tip a wise guy once told me: ‘Next time you get out of the bath or the shower, dry your body as though you’re drying a baby.’
That helps you to see how precious your body is and give it the care it needs.
You’ll wonder how you ever moaned about little things
The walk to the corner shop for milk? That annoying neighbour who feeds the birds? An unexpected visitor calling in on you?
You’ll most likely be so grateful to have some sense of ‘normal’ life back, you’ll overlook the annoyances that once used to drive you crazy.
And when others moan to you about their horrible boss or the annoying person they’re dating, you’ll probably tell them to look for a new job or cut things off with their date. After all, life’s too short, right?
The label might stick for a while but you’ll learn to embrace it
For a few months (or even years), you’ll probably be known as ‘the person who had cancer’ but don’t let this throw you off.
You can’t control other people’s opinions but you can control how you feel about that label. Recognise that it doesn’t define you and that you are a whole person with many different thoughts, interests, memories, loves, hates and everything in between.
Learn to accept that cancer is one part of your life and tell yourself that how other people define you is none of your business. You are in charge of your story and how you present yourself to the world. Remember that.
People will be awkward around you for a while
People will be awkward around you. It’s inevitable. They won’t know what to say or do. They’ll try to say the right thing and cringe as the wrong thing comes out. They might even cross the road so they don’t have to have a difficult conversation about what you’ve been through (it happens!).
Don’t feel as though you have to act the way people expect you to. Too often, we find ourselves almost apologising for the awkwardness of others. It’s okay. Take a breath, be yourself, and relax. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they’ll be.
Forgive your friends if they say the wrong thing. Our brains like to know exactly what’s what and if we’re in an uncomfortable situation, an unexpected comment might come out.
Do you have any more tips? Let me know,