One of the biggest worries cancer survivors have is about cancer recurrence. Cancer recurrence is when cancer returns after treatment or after you’ve been given the “all clear”. Cancer recurrence, like the initial diagnosis, is highly unpredictable. Though cancer survivors may go years without any sign of disease, they report the thought of recurrence is always with them. Many experience a heightened sense of vigilance about what is coming next, worrying that every ache or pain is a sign of their cancer recurring. This catastrophic thinking can get in our way and limit our quality of life.
To add even more complexity, some don’t feel comfortable openly sharing these feelings with family members and friends, because they feel like their concerns won’t be understood. Some cancer survivors feel guilty for not feeling more positive about cancer remission, and simply keep it to themselves.
First and foremost, I want you to know that everything you are feeling is valid. The cancer experience is not easy, no matter what stage you are at on your journey. In fact, research has shown that cancer survivors who experience more somatic symptoms (pain, fatigue, etc.) tended to also report higher levels of stress, primarily related to the fear of recurrence. Our bodies are reflecting back to us how much fear we are holding onto when it comes to cancer developing again.
However, in order to truly thrive again, we need to talk about ways of releasing that fear. Holding on to that fear is a roadblock to moving forward fully. Fear traps us in our past, and stops us from finding peace in our future.
So what do we do for our mindset, and how do we make choices to live our lives outside of that fear? We focus on finding purpose.