Thanks to significant advances in the treatment of blood cancers, more and more people are cured, while many others experience long periods where their disease is under control and they are free to ‘get on’ with their lives. Survival, however, offers its own challenges and opportunities.
Most people look forward to the end of treatment as a time when they can re-enter life and enjoy a ‘normal’ existence. The majority of people adjust very well and go from strength-to-strength with the support and understanding of their families and friends. It is important to remember, however, that adjustment is a gradual process. It may take time for you and those around you to get used to the new situation.
There is no right, wrong, or easy way to get back to ‘normal’. Your idea of ‘normal’ may need to be redefined in light of your recent life experiences. Some people need time to process what they have been through, either alone or with other people. It is always good to have a close friend or family member whom you can talk with openly about your feelings or experiences.
While life does becomes a lot easier, roles and responsibilities may need to be re-negotiated within the family. Decisions may need to be made about how, or when, to return to work. Relationships may need to be re-established or, in some cases, re-evaluated as some people begin to look at life from a new perspective. Having realistic expectations of yourself and others can help to prevent disappointment, anger and frustration.
Some people find it useful to talk to others who have been down a similar path and understand the complex issues that come up as you adjust to your new life. Support groups can be important at this time and Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand run a number of these.
Many people find it useful to share their thoughts and feelings with a counsellor or psychologist. In this context they are given the opportunity to express themselves openly and honestly, and without fear of offending or disappointing the listener. Relationship or family counselling can be of great assistance to help people move forward in their lives and successfully work through some of the more difficult issues.
A large number of people report very positive outcomes from the experience of living with a blood cancer. These include a heightened appreciation of life and relationships, and a new level of personal development, involving increased self-confidence, calmness, serenity and assertiveness. Getting used to any new situation takes time. Remember, despite the challenges, the majority of survivors are happy, well-adjusted people who go on to lead enjoyable and fulfilling lives.