A woman looks ahead with a calm expression. Behind her there are windows showing the passage of time through a sunrise.

You've Completed Treatment, Now What?

For me, this was the scariest part of the whole thing...it felt like I was being pushed off of a cliff with no guide as to how to get back to life. For 6 months you'd told me what to do, when to do it, and how I was going to get through it. I showed up, just like you asked...and now, now there is no guide available to give me the steps to get through what comes next.

What comes next?

I don't think there's a clear-cut path on what comes now, how you learn to live in the three months between each checkup. It's scary and hard and can at times feel crippling. Everyone around you thinks you are supposed to just bounce back into life as it was before, but that's not possible at first.

First, we have to begin to figure out who we are all over again because so much has changed. I found myself caught up in living in three-month increments and then it dawned on me that I didn't have to learn to live this way, what I needed to do was figure out how I was going to get back up and get back after it.

Give yourself time to heal and recover

First things first, allow yourself the time to recover! You just went through something really hard, something most people will never have to endure. You're not expected to bounce right back, you're not expected to know how to do all the things just like you did before. Balance living life to the fullest with rest and downtime. Your body has been put through the wringer, both mentally and physically.

Rethinking what is "normal"

The schedule that you will follow with your oncology team will feel far from normal - that's because it isn't normal for most people. For you, this will become just as routine as going to the grocery store once a week to get the items you need. I would call it your "new normal" but I think that's giving "normal" too much credit, because what really is normal anyways - it's different for each individual and ever-changing.

You will become the person who walks into the hospital and knows their way around without having to ask directions or question what steps you need to complete - blood work, scan, doctor's appointment, and repeat. Although it becomes second nature, it doesn't mean that it's easy...it just becomes what you know and part of your routine.

Give yourself grace

The fear you have is the same one that all of us have, none of us who've been diagnosed with cancer know where to start. We didn't know it was going to be so challenging AFTER treatment stopped, we thought the hardest part was behind us.

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Give yourself grace - you will stumble, fall and lose your balance from time to time...but you will also get back up and keep going, just like you've done so many times before. Time is your friend, you will figure out what works for you and how to navigate this part of the process as well.

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