Now Reading:
Getting Through the "What Now?" Phase After Treatment
What to Expect

Getting Through the "What Now?" Phase After Treatment

What to Expect


Madison Pollack

The time right after treatment, when we hear our doctors say "see you in 3 months!" can be one of the scariest, most daunting times in our lives - maybe even worse than when we were first diagnosed for some. So if you're feeling like you're in your "what now?" phase of your cancer journey, feeling a loss of control or not sure where to go from here, I can promise you - you're not alone.

We aren't told that after cancer treatment is over, we'll need to deal with the aftermath - both physically and mentally. During treatment we're in survival mode and just want to get it all over with so we can resume our "normal" lives (whatever "normal" means). But in reality, we'll never go back to that life again, our minds and bodies are different now, and that's okay.

For me, once I was done with chemo and radiation for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, I was absolutely terrified and was experiencing several side effects - I still had chest pain from the original mass in my chest, a vein in my left arm was painful at times from my biopsy, I had tremendous anxiety about recurrence and couldn't sleep, I felt isolated from my friends and family because nobody understood and I my self esteem was super low because I now had no hair at 25 years old.

It was really overwhelming to know where to start when it came to taking care of myself now and how to improve my health and happiness because any sense of control I thought I had prior to cancer was completely ripped out from under me. So what do I do now?

What helped me the most was finding things that I knew I could control around my health, like what I'm putting into my body, exercising, controlling my anxiety through mindfulness, and finding support from other cancer survivors who get it. After reducing processed foods, adding in lots of anti-inflammatory foods, reducing my toxicity through supplementation with a naturopath, getting back into exercise and starting several mindfulness practices to reduce my stress, almost all of my side effects went away pretty quickly.

We don’t just bounce back after cancer, like a lot of us may think. It takes time and work to feel healthy in our bodies again, considering most of us either went through chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery. Any one of those, or even just the stress of finding out you have cancer, is extremely difficult and taxing on our bodies and minds, so it takes time for us to feel at home in our bodies again.

My 3 tips for where to start after treatment are:

  1. Find support from people in the cancer community who have similar views and that you can relate to. Some support groups can be negative or make your fears worse, so be open to testing out a few different support groups to see which one you really connect with.
  2. Focus on one thing around your physical health you can control and lean into it. Whether it's food and nutrition or exercise - just focus on one to start.
  3. Start to manage your stress and anxiety. This will make an extreme difference as you settle into routines and life again. You could add in 5 minutes of meditation, yoga on a regular basis, or even just breathing for 1 minute in the mornings. Add in at least one mindfulness and stress management practice to your routine.

And a bonus tip - be patient with yourself. Your body and mind have been through a lot, it's okay to have tough days or even weeks, but as long as you're taking steps to move forward and treat your body with the love it deserves, you're doing it right. This new chapter can be absolutely beautiful if we let it be :)

XO, Maddy

Read Maddy's Survivor Story and how she changed her life during her "what now?" phase.

Madison Pollack is the founder of Be Your Health - an integrative wellness and nutrition organization that gets survivors on their feet and creating healthy mind, body, and spirit practices after cancer. Learn more about Maddy and Be Your Health here.

Related Stories