It doesn’t just end when treatment is over, you’ve still got remission to battle through. People have the misconception that you are fine, but the reality is that remission is such a scary place because it is like walking on thin glass – it doesn’t take a lot for it to give way. Relapse is obviously the scariest thing, and it is hard to escape from because whenever you have an ache or pain your mind transports you back to your terrifying diagnosis, so it is a constant battle between normality and the fear of relapse. On the other hand, remission is great because you can finally get back to some type of normality. Your energy comes back and you aren’t tied down to the restrictive ropes of treatment, so you can do whatever you want…within reason. Whilst remission is a time to plunge yourself back into life, you are still regularly checked on by your doctors, so you have that comforting security around you. I am 18 months into remission, and it has honestly been the best time of my life, because I have truly lived life to the full and soaked up every bit of enjoyment in life.
Tip 1 – Embrace “normality” to the full!
It’s your time, take the chance and do whatever you want to do!
You may feel that it would be pointless to plan or do anything in the first year or two of remission just in case you relapse – STOP right there! I understand your concern, but it is important that you seize each moment in remission, because – if you did relapse- it could be your last chance to do all that you want to do. So, plan that holiday, tick that box on the bucket list, and remember to live life to the full.
Tip 2 – Listen to your body
Understandably, you want to race into remission and never look back but take a moment to listen to your body. Don’t expect your body to spring back to what it was before, because it takes time for your body to recover from the harsh treatments. So, as much as you want to get back to normality and start back up where you left, it is unrealistic. My advice is to take a couple of weeks to recover. Additionally, it is a good idea to do a part-time schedule at school/work until you feel well enough to go back full time. If you have got your energy and feel fantastic, then don’t hesitate to throw yourself back into life, but be cautious as it is important to listen to your body, so that you do not over-do-it and make yourself ill. Remember, your body has been through a difficult battle, give it time to heal.
Tip 3 – Scanxiety
Weirdly, the hardest thing for me to adjust to in remission was not going to the hospital every week, because I missed my doctors and nurses whom always made me feel so safe and happy. The hospital had been my second home for 18 months, so it was difficult to leave it behind. But, I got used to it, and I had other activities to replace “Chemo Wednesday”, such as Ambulance cadets and after-school clubs.
In the first year of remission, I had scans every 3 months, which was a very apprehensive time because my cancer has a high-relapse rate. I managed to cope with it by trying not to think of the worst, and instead thinking about how my body felt: if I felt fine, then I felt confident that my scans would be fine. Although, there were times between scans that I would feel a bump or ache, which resulted in my mind being transfixed on this symptom and not being able to focus on anything else. Despite the anxiety of relapse always looming over my head lie a dark cloud, it is important that you stay positive and distract yourself from these thoughts: you can do this by living life to the fullest by keeping busy with school/work and leisure activities. Sometimes my feelings of scanxiety would be triggered by a friend (with the same cancer as me) relapsing or dying, because it made me feel that I was inevitably next but remember that everybody is different, and everybody reacts differently to the treatment – their fate is not a reflection of yours.
Congratulations on entering remission, I wish you all of the best for the future!
Live life to the full and stay strong.