Surviving Cancer

Changes in Relationships

Cancer involves not only the patient, but also family, friends, and coworkers. This is as true after treatment as it is during treatment. It's normal to notice changes in the relationships you have with the people in your life.

What Others May Expect of You

When treatment is over, your loved ones may expect you to be enthusiastic about getting on with your life. They may not understand that recovery takes time. Some may give you too much attention, while others may avoid you or hide their feelings because they think you have had enough to deal with already.

Your loved ones also have been through a difficult time and may feel the need to resume a normal life. For example, if you did the gardening before cancer, your spouse may expect you to begin again. If you don't feel up to it, tell them and don't feel pressured to do more than you can handle.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

At other times, you may expect more from your loved ones than you receive. For instance, you may still need your family's support and may expect your children or grandchildren to be as attentive as they were during your treatment, but they may not call as often as you think they should. It is important to keep the lines of communication open and give yourself time to adjust to changes. If you need more support, call your friends or family instead of waiting for them to call you.

You may wish to share this booklet with family and friends. Facing Forward: When Someone You Love Has Completed Cancer Treatment.

Seek Outside Help if Needed

Sometimes it's necessary to seek outside help. Ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor who can help you communicate with your loved ones. Join a support group if you feel that talking with other survivors who have gone through similar experiences would be helpful. Support groups are also available for loved ones of cancer survivors.

Relating to Coworkers

Many survivors age 60 and older are still working. Some may need to work for financial reasons, while others work because they enjoy being around people and staying busy. Returning to work after cancer treatment is over can help you feel that your life is getting back to normal.

Just like your loved ones, friends at work may respond to you in different ways. Some may be very supportive, while others may be uncomfortable and try to avoid you. Think about the best approach for you to deal with their reactions.

Plan How You Will Respond

Many survivors find it helpful to plan what they will say about their cancer. Some are open about discussing it, but others don't want to focus on it. You should choose what is right for you.