Finishing prostate cancer treatment can be both stressful and exciting. Most likely you will be relieved to finish treatment but you may be worried about the cancer coming back or dealing with side effects of treatment and the disease. Take a moment to celebrate the end of treatment.
Regardless of what the future holds, you have beaten cancer and this is a tremendous accomplishment. Find a way to enjoy this part of survivorship. Now you can look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health and adopt new healthy choices.
The New Normal
An important thing to realize is that cancer doesn’t have an on/off switch. Rather, cancer is a continuous journey. Even after treatment ends, you might find that life is not the same as it was before. The cancer, the various treatments, or the passage of time may have taken its toll. It can be frustrating not to be able to return to “normal”. However, understand that the definition of normal may have changed for you—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Life after treatment will be, initially, a time of change. You are still recovering from treatment, and adjusting to the idea of life without cancer. This may be scary and destabilizing to you, but it’s important not to be intimidated by the path ahead. Take the time you need to recover, and consider the following tips:
- Don’t expect to recover instantly
- Receive the understanding of your family and community
- Develop new hobbies or interests to fit with your abilities
Some parts of your life will be permanently changed, particularly depending on the side effects of your treatment. Although it may be hard, try not to linger on the things you can no longer do. Instead, find positive alternatives.
Long Term Side Effects
Depending upon the type of treatment you had, several aspects of your life may have changed. Talk with your health care professionals about how to handle lasting side effects. Visit our side effects section to learn more about managing some common long term side effects.
Medical Follow Up
Just like when you were in cancer treatment, make sure to talk to your doctor and those around you for help with health problems.
As you finish treatment, ask for a Survivorship Care Plan so you will have a complete record of your prostate cancer diagnosis and the treatments you had. This will also give you a back-up plan in case of recurrence or new health problems.
For years after treatment you will need to see your doctor for follow-up. These visits can include different tests such as blood tests, physical exams, or scans. Many people find these followup visits stressful but it is important to keep up to date on your appointments. Make sure to keep your doctor informed about any problems you are having. This is vital to maintaining health and happiness into long-term survivorship.
Some of the treatment options for prostate cancer, such as androgen deprivation therapy, can result in weight gain and bone loss. Depression and fatigue, which are common lingering effects of prostate cancer, can make it hard for even the most motivated man to exercise or eat healthy foods. These effects can linger well after treatment is concluded.
However, there is always hope for a healthy life after prostate cancer. A study at the University of Southern California on the effects of exercise on prostate cancer survivors found that many participants not only regained bone density, but also reported a more positive mood. In fact, an exercise routine as simple as walking can aid prostate cancer survivors in improving their fatigue, depression, and body weight issues. Go to our page on Physical Activity and Exercise to learn more.
As it is for all aspects of the cancer journey, nutrition is very important for survivorship. Proper nutrition and a prostate-healthy diet can help survivors live longer, receive more enjoyment out of life, and feel more empowered about their choices. Unfortunately, prostate cancer treatments can sometimes result in appetite loss, changes in smell or taste, or depression, which can limit dietary choices. Visit our Diet and Nutrition page to find tips on how to overcome these obstacles.
It may seem like the battle with cancer is over, but this is often a time of change and confusion. Hopefully you are out of treatment or heading into long-term survivorship, but that does not mean that you do not still need the support and understanding of your family and loved ones.
The challenges of life after cancer are not well known or widely understood. Like you, they might expect that you are able to go back to “normal” now. This is a time for you to have an honest conversation about the challenges you are facing and the differences that cancer has made in your life. But this is also an opportunity to find the joy in recovery. Share the newfound wonders of life with your loved ones and bring them along your journey of healing.
If you took time off of work for treatment, think about how you want to handle your return to work. Are you prepared to talk about your experience or not? Sharing your experience with others is up to you so decide how you want to handle friends and co-workers questions before you are back in the workplace.
Many survivors feel passionate about spreading the word about their journey to make sure that other men do not go through this illness. If you would like to educate your community about prostate cancer at a health fair or event, you can click here to learn how to represent ZERO with an awareness table.
Some survivors find solace in support groups, whether face-to-face or online. It can help to talk to others that have been through a similar process, or to guide others through treatment decisions. UsToo has a great resource for finding support groups. You can also find additional support resources on our site.