Cancer Support: End of Acute Treatment
The end of acute treatment is often the most difficult phase to cope with as ‘you wait in limbo’. On one hand the treatment is over and therefore you may slowly start to ‘feel like yourself again’. On the other hand there is a sense of ‘waiting for something’. Often this phase is difficult because supportive resources connected to the treatment phase start to dwindle. During this phase there will be frequent doctor appointments to monitor the effects of treatment which can be a ‘double edged sword’: the appointments may give you and your family a sense of relief, however the appointments are also like a ‘tap on the back’ reminding you that it’s not over yet.
Cancer Support: Survivorship
One of the major crises when your doctor tells you that you’re in remission is the feeling of ‘well what’s next’? Exploring your identity after cancer and how/ if cancer still plays a role in your own self-perception are common conflicts. Psychologists may be able to help you ‘reconstruct’ your identity and work out ‘so where to from here’?
Recurrent anxiety and low mood symptoms: it is normal for survivors of cancer and their families/friends to develop feelings of fear, worry, preoccupation and hypervigilance related to the cancer reoccurring. Often people will over-interpret and be hypervigiliant to any ‘abnormal’ health indicators (i.e. lumps or bumps). Other people will have a difficult time adjusting to their life ‘after’ cancer which may result in low mood symptoms such as feeling sad, isolated, withdrawing from family and friends and having difficulty ‘getting back into the swing of things’. In most cases, these anxiety and low mood symptoms generally decrease over time. However there are some people who understandably can’t cope with the negative side effects cancer has had on their life and will develop more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression which negatively impact their life. Some of these indicators are: unexplainable episodes of crying, loss if interest in activities, inability to get out of bed in the morning, insomnia/hypersomnia, change in appetite, poor concentration and fatigue. Psychologists play an important role in accurately diagnosing and treating mental health illnesses and supporting you during survivorship.
Psychologists can also help you adapt to the changes that occurred in your life during the diagnosis and treatment phases including relationship dynamics, loss of employment, changed living arrangements. Again people in this phase often compare their life ‘before’ and ‘after’ cancer, often ruminating on the loss of their ‘before’ life.
Psychologists can also be helpful in promoting healthy lifestyle change to promote health and wellness critical to this ‘survivorship’ phase. Particular focus is spent on discussing barriers to lifestyle change modification. Lifestyle changes which play an important role in minimising the recurrence of cancer includes healthy diet and exercises change and quitting unhealthy behaviours including excessive alcohol intake and smoking.
For more information on cancer support during end of acute treatment and survivorship or to find out more about how a psychologist can support you and your family during this time, please feel free to contact the writer, Psychologist, Catherine Waight, at email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find our more about Catherine and her interest in Health Psychology please visit www.psychprofessionals.com.au
Here at YourPsychOnline.com, Psychologist, Pippa Spooner, is our resident Health Psychology person and she would be privileged to support you and your family. Pippa offers online support via Skype, Email or Instant Messenger. For more information on Pippa please see www.yourpsychonline.com.