Each person handles the move from active treatment to survivorship differently. While some people are relieved to have treatment behind them, others struggle with this “new reality.” They may be fearful or anxious about their future. Or they may not be able to relate to others who haven’t had the same experience. This can make it difficult for them to transition back into their pre-cancer routine.
Often, breast cancer survivors miss the support that they felt from their health care team. This is particularly true as new treatment-related challenges arise.
Some strategies to help you adapt to this next stage in your life include:
Embracing Your Health
Cultivating healthy habits is important for breast cancer survivors. This is because you are at higher risk for other health problems as a result of your treatment. Healthy behaviors can also help you get stronger, reduce the severity of side effects and feel better emotionally.
Some of these behaviors include:
- Quitting smoking
- Adopting a healthy diet
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
UPMC Pinnacle offers a range of support services that can help you adopt healthy habits. These are available to you both during and after your treatment.
Many people report having survivor’s guilt following breast cancer treatment. Other people may question their long-held views or beliefs. Rest assured that this kind of reflection is normal.
You may find the following approaches helpful as you work through these feelings and questions:
- Re-evaluate old patterns and priorities to see if they are still relevant after your breast cancer
- Reach out for spiritual support through your local church, the chaplain at your hospital or cancer center, or through local cancer organizations
- Keep a journal or blog of your thoughts and feelings
- Find new ways to support emotional well-being, either by trying a new activity or joining a social group
Survivorship Support Groups
Cancer survivors often benefit from speaking and sharing with other survivors. A survivorship support group offers the chance to gain emotional support. It is also a great way to gather practical tips. You may discuss treatment-related challenges like pain management or fear of recurrence.
A trained person leads support groups. They will inform and educate you about cancer. Guest speakers may attend and provide expert information.
Internet support groups provide you with another opportunity to speak with fellow survivors. These are particularly good if you live in a rural area or have transportation challenges. An advantage of internet support groups is that you may be able to communicate with others who have the same type of breast cancer as you.
Speak with a member of your UPMC Breast Care Center team about the various support groups that are available in your community or online.
Other ways to gain support include:
- Talking with a friend
- Individual counseling or therapy
- Speaking with your doctor or nurse
- Speaking with a spiritual or religious figure in your community
- Visiting the learning resource center at UPMC Pinnacle
- Focusing on other enjoyable activities
Breast cancer survivors often experience a strong desire to give back after treatment. Many want to repay the kindness that they were shown. Some realize that their experience may be valuable to others who are newly diagnosed or in treatment.
Regardless of your reason, volunteering is a great way to build new friendships, expand your network of support and do something that makes you feel good.
If you are interested in volunteering, think about your own strengths, interests and expertise. Then determine how you could use these to help an organization further its mission. The most common types of volunteer opportunities are:
- Service and support
- Awareness and education
Need more information?
PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the Rocco and Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion
2035 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109