After treatment ends

During treatment, you were probably so busy just getting through each day that it was hard to imagine that treatment would ever end. Now that it has, you may be surprised by mixed feelings. You may find that you feel glad, excited and anxious all at the same time. While you’re happy to be done treatment, it’s normal to be concerned about what the future holds. Many people find the time after treatment to be a period of transition and adjustment – and much more of a challenge than they expected. As you adjust, be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to feel good about everything. Go slowly and give yourself time to come to terms with all you’ve been through.

About survivorship

Survivorship is the experience of living through or beyond an illness. But the term cancer survivor means different things to different people. For many, being a cancer survivor starts at the moment of diagnosis and continues for as long as a person lives. For others, survivorship begins once active treatment is over and there are no more signs of cancer in the body. For some, the definition of cancer survivor is very broad and includes family members, friends or caregivers touched by cancer, to reflect that they too have lived through the experience.

Survivor isn’t a perfect word. For some people, it’s a strong, positive way of describing their situation. Using it helps them as they work through the challenges they face after treatment. But others don’t like it at all.

Whether you like the word or not, it expresses that you’ve gone through a certain experience. In the end, the word used may not matter. What matters is that many people agree that cancer treatment is an experience that stays with you and can change your outlook on life.

Your feelings after cancer treatment

The end of treatment is a big event for most people. You may start to feel better and get back to doing the things you like to do. The weeks and months of going to the hospital are over. Survivors often think they should celebrate this milestone, but you may not feel like celebrating. At the end of treatment, you may be very weak and still have side effects. And now that you aren’t so busy with medical appointments and connected to your healthcare team, you may feel a bit lost or nervous without their support.

And so even though this is what you’ve been waiting for, it’s important to recognize that you could still have strong and mixed feelings at the end of treatment. You are probably relieved and happy that you have finished treatment, but you may find that you struggle with emotions such as moodiness, sadness, anger or grief. Your feelings, as well as how strong they are and how quickly they change, can surprise you.

Not everyone will have a hard time after treatment is finished. But if you do, you may find it helpful to know that these strong feelings often fade as your strength and energy come back.

Your wellness plan

Now that treatment is over, you may be thinking about some healthy goals to work toward. You’ve been through a lot, so it’s OK to start small. While you may be tired of hearing messages about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, as a cancer survivor they take on more meaning. Being active, having good nutrition, keeping a healthy body weight and not smoking can help you:

  • regain or build strength
  • reduce side effects
  • reduce the risk of second cancers or other health problems
  • manage stress
  • reduce fatigue
  • enjoy life more

A wellness plan is an important part of your follow-up care. It can help you feel better and recover after cancer treatment. Your wellness plan will be tailored to your personal needs, preferences and health and fitness level – it may look very different from another survivor’s plan.

Find out more about feeling your best during and after treatment.

Expert review and references

  • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Living with Cancer: A Report on the Patient Experience . 2018.
  • Ganz PA, Hahn EE. Implementing the survivorship care plan: a strategy for improving the quality of care for cancer survivors. Holland JC, et al. Psycho-Oncology . 2nd ed. Oxford University Press; 2010: 79: 557-561.
  • Leigh S. From anecdote to evidence: the survivor's perspective. Lester JL, Schitt P (eds.). Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Personalized Care . Pittsburgh PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2011: 2:7–14.
  • Lester JL. Cancer survivorship care plans. Lester JL, Schitt P (eds.). Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Personalized Care . Pittsburgh PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2011: 34: 359–369.
  • Pelc K. Survivorship. Kantor D, Suzan Z (eds.). Issues of Cancer Survivorship: An Interdisciplinary Team Approach to Care . Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2016: 2–13.
  • Thom B, Corcoran S, McCabe M . Cancer survivorship. Yarbro CH, Wujcki D, Holmes Gobel B, (eds.). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning; 2018: 71: 2005 - 2027.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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