Moving forward after treatment has finished

While the person with cancer is taking time to adjust to life after cancer, you’ll also need time to rest and try to take up your life again.

Reactions and adjustments to life after cancer 

After cancer treatment is over, like the person with cancer, you may have some strong feelings. What has happened to the person with cancer may make you question things about your own life and future. Your priorities may change: you may want to focus more on enjoying the important things in life, such as family and friends. This can be very positive. Your relationships may be stronger and more loving because of it.

You may be expecting the person with cancer to get back to ‘normal’ life after treatment. As a supporter you may feel frustrated that this may not be happening quickly enough, and recovery is taking longer than you thought. It may be helpful to read the Cancer Society’s booklet Getting on with Life after Treatment.

Sometimes, it can be the supporter who is struggling to come to terms with what has happened to their partner/family/whānau member or friend. If you find that you are having difficulty moving on with life after cancer treatment you may benefit from talking to a counsellor.

When treatment finishes

There may come a time when your help is not needed as much. It may be because the person with cancer is getting better and trying to return to their normal life. This may make you feel a bit lost or unneeded.

You may think that you can slip back into your day-to-day life as it was before you became a supporter, but this can be challenging. Your life may also have changed. Going back to work or taking on other responsibilities you had put on hold can be overwhelming. Do things at your own pace and give yourself some time to adjust.

Talking about your feelings with someone you trust or a counsellor can help you understand the situation.

Top tips for supporters

  • Sometimes, what you do as a supporter changes and you end up doing more than expected. Keep talking with the person with cancer and the health professionals. You may want to say you cannot carry on (work out what you are able to do and re-visit this every now and again).
  • Make sure you have people who support you to support the person with cancer.
  • Take time to do something different or talk or think about things other than cancer.
  • Be prepared to compromise – let others help, let some jobs go undone, change the way you usually do things.
  • Find out how other people manage in this situation – talk to other supporters. Contact Carers NZ. Look for publications written by or about carers.
  • Check what services are available in your area, such as help with driving, helping with showering/bathing, online shopping that’s delivered. Accepting help may mean you can carry on a caregiving role.
  • When others offer to help, try to find something suitable for them to do. Some people keep a list, a mixture of things ‘to do’ such as shopping, lawn mowing, cleaning and fixing. They may do things that support you emotionally such as going for a drive, a coffee date, a movie or, simply, being together.
  • Recognise grief in a mixture of emotions, and physical and behavioural changes. Grief is a normal response to change and loss.