In my last post I told you about a friend of mine who experienced something still too common after cancer treatment: she was released without any direction about how to navigate life as a survivor. Without her medical team to guide her, she floundered for months.
I offered this suggestion: Once you finish treatment, don’t assume someone else is supposed to be in charge.
Outrageous? Maybe. If not your medical team, who’s in charge?
Let’s take a closer look in this video.
(Rather read than watch? Continue below the video screen.)
Oncology teams are great at providing you all the direction you need during treatment. They probably trained you well about when to show up and what to do. You got used to following their marching orders.
But cancer centers are only now waking up to the fact that once treatment’s over, people have very different needs than they had while they were in the thick of it. And the tools they have to offer – drugs and surgery – aren’t what’s needed to meet most of the needs of people who are done with treatment.
Now if you’re taking a maintenance drug such as Tamoxifen, then of course your oncology team should monitor you. But you’ve probably had – or still have – a whole bunch of other needs, like getting back your energy or piecing together who you are after this life-changing experience. Chances are your oncology team isn’t prepared to meet those needs.
Believe me, my hat’s off to your oncology team. They’re good folks, skilled at what they do and truly interested in getting you through treatment with a minimum of pain and fuss.
The problem is those teams, from the oncologists to the receptionists, are only skilled in treatment itself. They’re generally not trained at all about what happens after that. And with their plates as full as they are, they don’t have time to help you figure out what happens next.
Believing they’ll continue to provide the answers you need once treatment is over may be undermining you. It’s frustrating and paralyzing to wait for direction that never comes.
Are you thinking, “But I still don’t know what to do”? It’s true: you need guidance and support. If you didn’t get it at the time, you may still be wondering what to do next.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to find all the answers alone. But there’s a crucial role for you to play, and this is what I most want you to take away today: get crystal clear on what you need. Think about it: you’re the expert about what you need. No one – not even the smartest medical professional – knows more about what your body and spirit need than you do.
Knowing what you need is the first step in finding support.
What is it you need?
Energy sagging before you get through the day? You need an expert who can figure out what’s weighing you down and how to clear it away.
Worry monkey hanging onto your shoulder? You need a strategy in your pocket to keep fear from running away with your day.
Once you’ve figured out what you need, don’t let anyone tell you “that’s just the way it is.” Every one of your needs is valid and deserves support.
Unlike standard cancer treatment, care beyond treatment isn’t one size fits all. What supports you in getting your physical and emotional wellness back isn’t exactly the same as what the next person needs, even if she had the same type of cancer. You’re different people, with different bodies and different emotions. That’s why your input about your needs is so important.
Each time you get clear on one of your needs you’ll feel a sense of relief, because you’ve taken the first powerful step towards getting the support you need. So get clear as you can, and then let the people who support you know what you need help with. Resources do exist to support you with any need you can identify.
Your turn – I’d love to hear what you have to say.
- Which of your needs did your oncology treatment meet really well?
- Which needs weren’t they able to meet? How did that leave you feeling?
- What needs are you still looking for support with?