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As changes are one of the only constants in life, transitions are a part of cancer survivorship. As you move forward in your survivorship, changes may occur in different aspects of your life. Some of these will be related to your journey through cancer.

Moving On

  • Some survivors report that time and distance provide both perspective and the opportunity for settling into a “new normal.”

Even though, some people affected by cancer never leave their “old normal.” Everyone is unique. There is no right or wrong way.

Some survivors transition back into their lives and never think about cancer. This may be a choice, and also based on an individual’s circumstances.

  • Some survivors with long-term and late effects are more challenged to forget their cancer experience.

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Some survivors have physical scars and other reminders of their ordeal.

Some survivors carry mental and emotional wounds that surface upon occasion.

  • Anniversaries of your diagnosis and cancer treatments can present a reason to celebrate survivorship. You may enjoy acknowledging and celebrating major milestones. Some people affected by cancer also say that anniversaries can remind them of both the triumphs and difficulties related to their journey.

Regardless of your specifics, your relationship with your own cancer experience and survivorship will evolve.

The transitions of our lives, and those around cancer, sometimes present challenges we wish to avoid. Whatever the situation, there is always help available and hope on the horizon.


“How can this be happening to me again? Haven’t I been through enough?”

A recurrence is cancer that has come back after it has been treated and there was no cancer detected in your body. A recurrence can happen in the same place where the cancer first began or it can come back in a different part of the body.


A cancer recurrence is tough. Some people battle the disease once, and then face it again.

You may be feeling shocked, angry, sad, or scared. Many people have these feelings.

Whatever you feel, want, and need, honor this process.

People experience so many emotions when they find out that their cancer has come back. Starting cancer treatment again can place even more demands on your mind and spirit. You'll have good days and bad days. So just remember that it's okay to feel a lot of different emotions.

Some of these emotions may be ones you have had at other times in your life. But you may be feeling them more intensely.

If you have dealt with them in the past, you may be able to cope with them now, too. If some of the feelings are new, or are so strong that it is hard to get through everyday activities, you may want to ask for help.

Possible New Treatment Options

Cancer survivors confronting a recurrence are more experienced the second time around. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

Try to remember what you did before to cope. Reflect on what you might have done differently. By looking back in this way, the hope is that you may find new strength, and this strength can help carry you through each day, and through the coming weeks and months.


Also remember that treatments may have improved since you had your first cancer.

New drugs or methods may help with your treatment or in managing side effects.

In fact, cancer is now often thought of as a chronic disease - one which people manage for many years.


Cancer that returns can affect all parts of your life. You may feel weak and no longer in control. But you don't have to feel that way. You can take part in your care and in making decisions. You can also talk with your health care team and loved ones as you make decisions about your care. This may help you feel a sense of control and well-being.

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End of Life

A cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. However, not everyone survives their disease.

Everyone dies, and some people die of cancer. This may sound crude. It is not meant to. The simple reality is that death is a part of life.

When a patient’s health care team determines that the cancer can no longer be controlled, medical testing and cancer treatment often stop.

But the patient’s care continues.

The care focuses on making the patient comfortable. The patient receives medications and treatments to control pain and other symptoms.

Some patients remain at home during this time, while others enter a hospital or other facility. Either way, services are available to help patients and their families with the medical, psychological, and spiritual issues involving dying.

A hospice often provides such services.


The time at the end of life is different for each person. Each individual has unique needs for information and support. The patient’s and family’s questions and concerns about the end of life should be discussed with the health care team as they arise.

Patients and their family members often want to know how long a person is expected to live. This is a hard question to answer.

Factors that play a role

  • Where the cancer is located
  • Other illnesses the patient may have that can affect what will happen.

Although doctors may be able to make an estimate based on what they know about the patient, they might be hesitant to do so. Doctors may be concerned about over- or under-estimating the patient’s life span. They also might be fearful of instilling false hope or destroying a person’s hope.

Everyone has different needs, but some emotions are common to most dying patients. These include fear of abandonment and fear of being a burden. They also have concerns about loss of dignity and loss of control.

Some ways caregivers can provide comfort include the following:
  1. Keep the person company - talk, watch movies, read, or just be with the person.

  2. Allow the person to express fears and concerns about dying, such as leaving family and friends behind. Be prepared to listen.

  3. Be willing to reminisce about the person’s life.

  4. Avoid withholding difficult information. Most patients prefer to be included in discussions about issues that concern them.

  5. Reassure the patient that you will honor advance directives, such as living wills.

  6. Ask if there is anything you can do.

  7. Respect the person’s need for privacy.

For More Information:

These web sites contain information regarding the end of life such as advanced directives, advanced care planning, grief, loss, etc.




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