When Cancer Returns: 5 Things to Keep in Mind

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It’s the call you never want to get: “The cancer’s come back.”

Several people in my support group have gotten that call recently. There’s no way around it: It just bites.

Here are a few things to remember if you find yourself dealing with cancer again.

  • It’s normal to be angry. It’s normal to be frustrated. It’s normal to rage. It’s normal to feel terrified. Again. Let yourself have the space to do those things. Again.
  • Remember that going into this new challenge with cancer, you are armed with experience and knowledge from your first bout. Of course you wouldn’t have wanted to experience cancer the first time, but you did learn tools that you can apply here. Use those tools. Ask questions. Be sure that you fully understand the treatment you agree to and carefully weigh whether anticipated degree of misery is worth the chance of cure. Be sure you understand what your medical team is really saying.
  • Ask for help. Just because you had cancer before doesn’t mean you’ve used up all the good will of your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask folks to come to appointments with you, to take care of the kids, to make meals, to tidy your home. If you have a religious community, this is the time to send up the “Help!” flag.
  • While you do have experience with cancer, remember that this new cancer may be different. It may not have the same pathology as your last cancer. It might not even be the same kind of cancer. Don’t be surprised if this is the case.
  • Remember that, even with a second cancer, prognosis can vary widely. If your old cancer has mestasized, that means something very different from a completely new, localized cancer.

Ask questions. Be ready to be flexible in both your attitude and your treatment plan. Ask for help. Hope for the best. Do the best you can, and hope for a cure.

It’s all any of us can do.

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