Strategies to cope with fear of recurrence include:
- Talking with your health care provider about a customized follow-up care plan based on your diagnosis and treatment.
- Gathering reputable, evidence-based information. Your health care team can help identify what symptoms to monitor and what not to worry about; every ache does NOT mean the cancer has recurred.
- Reducing your stress level. Different folks find different strategies helpful – experiment with a variety of methods (e.g., walks, yoga, gardening) and create a toolbox of calming thoughts and behaviors.
- Understanding that fear of recurrence is normal – you are not “crazy” for feeling fearful.
- Getting help.
Although fear of recurrence is a completely normal response, that does not mean you need to suffer through it alone. If the emotional upset interferes with what you want to be doing and thinking about, help is available (e.g., individual counseling, support groups, etc.). If you had diabetes no one would suggest that you simply will your blood sugar into a normal range. Cancer can be an isolating enough experience; you need not suffer the emotional roller coaster by yourself. Fear, anxiety, and depression can be treated and the quality of your life improved.
Many cancer survivors report that as they work through the distress, they feel renewed vigor, have a greater appreciation of life, improve their health behaviors, reassess their priorities, and experience a greater sense of “being in the moment.”