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Feeling Lost as a Cancer Survivor

With June being nationally recognized as Cancer Survivor Month, this is an opportunity for the 17 million cancer survivors across the United States to celebrate winning their battle against cancer. If you are a cancer survivor yet you have a loved one who wasn’t so lucky in winning the fight and is now in hospice in San Mateo and elsewhere, this may have you feeling lost and guilty.

It’s common to feel lost now — like you don’t know your way in life. This can be especially difficult when you have lost friends and family members to the disease. Whether your mother had cancer when she was your age but didn’t make it, or you made a new best friend attending chemo treatments together but he didn’t get the clean bill of health you did, that loss can leave you reeling.

Managing Emotions After Treatment

It’s important to understand the emotions that come with being a cancer survivor and come to terms with how to manage those feelings. Now that you’re done with treatment and are in remission, you may be eager to get on with your life and do all the things you couldn’t do before. It’s scary to leave the protective nest you’ve been staying in for months with your family members, nurses, and other caregivers. But fly the nest you must.

It’s important to acknowledge the fear, loneliness, and grief you’re going through right now. That sense of feeling lost can actually lead to sadness and depression as you come to terms with those feelings. After all, you expected to feel happy and overjoyed with your new lease on life; however, you mostly feel like you have no purpose now.

It’s common for people who just got over cancer to feel lost. After all, you’ve spent the better part of a year battling for your health, not knowing if you would live or die. Now suddenly faced with survival, you need time to work through this new reality and accept the changes that have taken place, says the National Cancer Institute.

You may also be suffering from self-consciousness, particularly if surgery or other cancer treatment changed your appearance. This self-consciousness about your body may be due to physical changes such as changes in skin color, weight loss, or weight gain, which can set you off-kilter and inhibit your newfound freedoms. Self-consciousness can also strain the relationship with your partner because you may not feel worthy of love or affection, despite surviving cancer, points out the Mayo Clinic.

Fear of recurrence is also common, setting you adrift on a sea of uncertainty. While you have been told you’re in remission, you know better than anyone that things can change and years from now, your cancer could come back. This can make it difficult to truly embrace your survival as you look to turn a new page in your life’s book. Every ache or pain could signal to you: is it coming back? This fear can keep you from moving on completely with your life.

How to Cope

Coping with your fear and feelings of being lost starts with being honest with yourself about your feelings. You may feel guilty about what you’re feeling but ignoring them in hopes they will go away is not realistic. It’s time to acknowledge those fears so you can set your compass on a straight course again. By taking control of those fears, you can influence the course of your future health. Here are some tips:

  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Be sure to exercise every day. Take it easy at first, but then start upping the intensity as you go along. Get lots of quality sleep. Not only will these practices help your body continue to recover from cancer treatment, it will give you more of a sense of control over your life.
  • Come to terms with losses. If you have lost a friend or family member to cancer and are feeling a bit of survivor’s guilt, seek therapy to work through those feelings. Yes, guilt is normal, but it can also prevent you from moving on with your own life. It’s important to come to terms with those feelings and realize it’s not your fault.
  • Be open and honest about your fears. Don’t bottle everything up. Express your thoughts and concerns to your friends and family — even other cancer survivors, as well as doctors and counselors. If it’s uncomfortable to discuss your fears with others, write your thoughts down in a daily journal.
  • Stay busy. Get out and get active. Participate in social activities. Re-engage with hobbies that used to bring you joy.

Most cancer survivors say that feeling of being lost does dissipate with time. Just be aware that certain events may trigger those fears, such as during follow-up visits to your physician or your cancer diagnosis anniversary.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We can help you with feelings of being lost and guilty as a cancer survivor. We offer many bereavement services for family members and loved ones who have lost their battle with hospice. Contact us for more information at 888-978-1306.