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As both a physician and a cancer survivor, here are three things I’ve learned about life after active treatment — a stage I found myself woefully unprepared for.
Survivorship is that thing that everyone diagnosed with cancer strives to achieve. We yearn to be able to say, “I survived cancer” and get past all the treatment, endless clinic visits, tests and scans. We want to be able to celebrate victory, and to move beyond the present and focus on the future.
But there are so many facets of survivorship that no one prepares you for. Despite the assertion that oncology clinics are trying to ensure that they arrange survivorship appointments with all their patients when their active treatment nears an end, I don’t think they are not doing a very good job on this front.
Personally, I never had any survivorship appointment at all, and I was woefully unprepared for some of the stark realities that survivorship brings with it.
Here are just a few of the lessons that I have learned about survivorship, either through my own experiences, or through talking with other cancer survivors and providing support to them.
Survivorship is the end-goal for many people diagnosed with cancer. However, the road to reach this goal is far from direct and comes with inevitable ups and downs and abrupt twists and turns.
The medical community tries to provide social and emotional support to cancer patients, but unfortunately, I feel that they are utterly failing at this endeavor. I make this statement as a part of the medical community myself (I am a physician in addition to a cancer survivor).
They try, but especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical community is in crisis mode, and they are simply unable to provide for what their patients need after cancer treatment is over. They are struggling to keep up with simply providing the medical care that comes with a cancer diagnosis.
There are, however, many organizations and resources that provide this type of support outside of the conventional clinic-type medical model. These can take the form of traditional support groups, or one-to-one peer matching services which can be an invaluable source of emotional support during and after cancer treatment.
Survivorship is an entirely new ball game, and navigating this sometimes-unpredictable phase requires time, patience and grace, understanding and most of all support as a person evolves from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor. Finding this type of community support, from people who truly “get it,” is an essential part of the journey into survivorship and beyond.
This post was written and submitted by Natasha Carlson. The article reflects the views of Natasha Carlson and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.
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