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Emotional, Social And Spiritual Well-Being

The period of time when breast cancer treatment comes to an end is an important and distinct moment in your breast cancer journey.  After your breast cancer treatment is complete, you may face emotional, social and spiritual concerns.

This is a time of transition and you may experience mixed feelings about treatment ending or emotional ups and downs as you adjust to life after treatment. Some people find that their experience of breast cancer leads to personal or spiritual growth that brings life priorities into sharper focus for them. Others find this to be a more difficult period of time, experiencing feelings of vulnerability fear, sadness, or depression. It may be that the full impact of everything you have been through may begin to hit you once active treatment is over.

As each person is different, there is no right way to feel or to approach any emotional, social or spiritual issues you may have after your treatment has finished. It’s common to experience a wide range of emotions during this time. Many people seek counseling or support services to help them deal with such issues, and often they wait until after their treatment is complete due to time constraints, fatigue or difficulty concentrating while in treatment. Others never seek counselling or formal support services at all.

After your treatment is complete, you may experience emotional, social and spiritual concerns or anxieties related to the following:

  • As your visits with your health care team become less frequent, feelings of fear or loss as a result of not being as closely connected to your health care team as you were during treatment

  • Fear of recurrenceRecurrence:
    Cancer that returns after treatment.

  • Sadness or depression

  • Continued fatigue

  • Changes in body image

  • Changes in intimacy with your partner

  • Spiritual questions about life and death, or a new understanding of your faith

  • Dealing with questions and reactions from acquaintances, neighbours or co-workers

  • Challenges in renegotiating relationships with friends and family as you move from active treatment, where you may have relied on others for help, to functioning more independently again

  • Anxieties about returning to work, particularly if there has been an extended period of medical leave

Support services

It is important to know that you do not have to face these challenges on your own. It may be helpful to share your feelings and concerns with people who are supportive listeners.

You can speak to your health care provider or another member of your health care team for referrals to social workers, psychologists, counsellors and other appropriate resources in your community. Some people seek counselling from supportive care services at the cancer centre or hospital where they received their treatment. If you are a member of a faith community, you may choose to seek support from other members of this community.

Another option to consider is joining a breast cancer support group. These groups are usually made up of people who have experienced breast cancer and meet regularly to talk. There are breast cancer support groups in almost every region, and there are also groups that meet by phone or online.

You may also want to participate in a retreat for people who have experienced breast cancer, or attend a breast cancer conference in a nearby community, which can give you additional opportunities to receive support and information. This may be a good option if support groups are not available in your area.

Connecting with other people who have experienced breast cancer through a formal support group may not be right for everyone, but many people find it very helpful. The community of people who have had breast cancer can be a strong and supportive one, and you may want to connect with other people who have shared similar experiences to yours and find support in more social ways.  There are lots of ways to get involved with the community, for example by joining a dragon boat team or a running group made up of others who have had breast cancer. These groups and activities tend to be a lot of fun and provide a sense of camaraderie that comes from shared experiences and working together as a team.

Living well

Your physical health can impact your mental and emotional health and is an important part of your overall well-being.

Enjoy a balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated and trans fats, sugar and sodium. Try to get a healthy amount of rest and regular physical activity, avoid tobacco smoke and recreational drug use, and if you drink alcohol, limit it to one drink or less per day. Also try to keep your stress level down. These actions will help your overall health and well-being. Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself! Do things you enjoy. Pleasure can be a powerful tool for health and well-being.


Sources:

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation-Ontario Region & Princess Margaret Hospital. (2010). Getting Back on Track. Life after breast cancer treatment. Toronto, ON: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.