No one wants to hear the words “you have cancer” even once. And for those who have heard it once, once done with treatments, you spend quite a bit of time worrying about recurrence. But the fear is powerful. For some, remission is short lived. For others, especially in my world of long term survivors, we face the risk of not only recurrence, but due to late effects from the treatments, we are at an increased risk for secondary cancers.
In reality, once we hit 10 years out, most of us feel that we have beaten cancer for good, and there are no thoughts of having to hear it again. And it makes perfect sense to think decades later, and I mean several, the risk of recurrence is not even a thought.
Sadly, a close friend of mine, after 40 years is facing a diagnosis of her cancer again. And this is on top of her late effects that she deals with. I am not disclosing her name. I know she reads “Paul’s Heart.” We are more than a thousand miles apart, but that does not stop me from wanting to help her.
I spoke with her on the telephone, and gave her “peer to peer” advice on how she might better deal with the stresses of this possible diagnosis. It is a miniscule consolation when facing cancer… again.
I am copying and pasting a section of an article from the web site “Cancer.net” dealing with cancer recurrence. It gives suggestions on how to deal or cope with the possible diagnosis of cancer again.
One would think that as a cancer survivor, a diagnosis of cancer again should not be as difficult for us to deal with. I will not pretend to know that statement as certainty. Just because we beat cancer, just because we got through the treatments, does not mean we necessarily know what to expect this time. Of course there is hope that one would have the same fight and determination and fight to beat the beast again, but until you are in those shoes, you just never know.
And with that, I would like to share text from Cancer.net, the article titled, “Dealing With Cancer Recurrence – Coping With Recurrent Cancer” which you can find the complete article at:
Coping with recurrent cancer
You may experience many of the same feelings you did when first diagnosed with cancer. Shock, disbelief, anxiety, fear, anger, grief, and a sense of loss of control are common emotions. All these feelings are normal responses to this difficult experience. Some people may even find this diagnosis more upsetting than the first one.
Many people with recurrent cancer also experience self-doubt about their original treatment decisions or choices after treatment. Remember that you and your doctor based those treatment choices on the information available at the time. Neither you nor your doctor could predict the future.
Understandably, you may worry about having the strength to cope with another round of tests and treatments. However, many patients find that their previous experience better prepares them to face the challenges. For example, patients with recurrent cancer have the following resources:
- Knowledge about cancer, which helps reduce some fear and anxiety related to the unknown
- Previous relationships with doctors, nurses, and clinic or hospital staff
- An understanding of the medical system, commonly used terms, and health insurance
- Knowledge of cancer treatments and their side effects, as well as strategies to reduce side effects
- Where to go for support, including family and friends, support groups, and professionals trained in providing emotional support
- Experience practicing stress-reducing methods, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends
It’s normal to experience emotional distress after a diagnosis of recurrent cancer. However, seek professional help when the distress is long lasting and interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities. Counseling may help you in several ways, including:
- Learning ways to cope with difficult feelings
- Managing cancer symptoms and treatment side effects
- Exploring the meaning of your cancer experience