As treatments improve, early diagnosis becomes more common and prognosis more positive, more people than ever recover from cancer and continue on with their lives. We often talk about the cancer survivor story, what do they do, how do they move on, but the reality is it is different for everyone.
Not only is every cancer survivor unique, but so is their experience with cancer, and as a result, how they respond afterwards. However, as we can talk to more and more cancer survivors, medical professionals have a much better understanding of the needs of a cancer survivor today than they did even just a decade ago.
Cancer treatment, and the entire experience of living with cancer places an extraordinary strain on mental health, and it is perhaps no surprise that mental health support is something that a cancer survivor will find extremely helpful in both the short and long term. There are many approaches to providing this, but support groups allow a cancer survivor to meet with others in a similar situation and share their own experiences and thoughts.
Because having cancer and going through treatment becomes so all-encompassing, many feel that it takes over who they are. It strips away both individuality and personality, leaving just the cancer patient as the only thing people see. Lifting that pressure when given the all clear leaves a need to reassert who you are. They don’t want to go from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor, the goal is to be who they are, the individual they were before diagnosis.
What is also common among survivors then, is a need to achieve goals, do the things that they always put off before, try something different and be who they are, not the disease they once had. If you are supporting someone through cancer treatment, remember that when they come out the other side, they will need the support to be themselves again. They will always be a cancer survivor, but you have to let each person be themselves, first and foremost.