So, you thought you were done?

Have you ever been in situations before and heard yourself say ” I sure thought I was done with that!”  Well, I hear many survivors with the same response when they complete their cancer treatment.  This time in their cancer journey seems to be one of the hardest for many survivors and is a time that often triggers depression.  It’s especially hard because well-meaning loved ones and friends are so happy that their friend is doing better and in a very different place.  I hear many survivors say that have feelings of confusion and guilt and cannot celebrate this important milestone.  A survivor recently described this well by saying that cancer doesn’t end when treatment does. This is especially true when a survivor has a cancer that recurs frequently. (We’ll talk more about this in a later post).

So, what gives?  How can we manage this difficult time?  As with most situations, there is no one way to handle this but there are resources available to make it better.  Think of this time as a bridge or transition period and recognize it will be full of ups and downs.  Probably the first thing I encourage survivors to do is to take a moment and try to objectively evaluate your feelings.  Trusted friends can be great in helping us do this.  Meeting with a caring professional can also be a great help.  At our cancer support center, we have therapists available to help. My friend, Terry, organized an organization called ACT (After Cancer treatment which supports survivors in transition by offering activity based healing support.  I have participated in a bimonthly support group and this has been a huge support for me.  These are just some examples of ways to make this very difficult time one of healing for your body and soul.

Have you experienced a time that your end of treatment wasn’t “The End?”



  1. Hey Patsy!

    Great post! I feel so strongly in finding help when treatment ends…it is a point when we are left to navigate new waters on our own! Thank you for addressing this issue!

    You are the Best!



  2. I think the hardest part about being in this spot is other people. It’s difficult to explain to those without cancer that it’s not “over”. Yes, I am better, but I am not out of the woods yet. They want to cheer and celebrate that you are back and you are safe now. But, alas that is often not the case. It’s horrible to watch their faces fall when I explain this. So, I mostly leave out the gory stuff when I speak to people, “Yes, I am not in treatment right now and am feeling good today.” That feels inauthentic sometimes because I know that’s not what they hear.


  3. Faith

    Great post Patsy! I agree that things are much more difficult after treatment. I felt so closely monitored that nothing could go wrong (false sense of security) but when treatments were finished and I was cut loose there were many times I went into panic mode! Sometimes when people ask how I am doing I get a deer in the headlights look. What is the answer? I think Pharmgirls respone is good, I am not in treatment right now and today I feel good. I wish I could find a physical support group but so far I haven’t been able to find one. This seems like a great blog and so far very encouraging.


  4. It’s hard to know what to say, how much to say, whether to tell it like it is or tell it like they want to hear it. Nobody wants to hear that 15 months after chemo I still get stabbing pains in my feet and legs that make me jump right off the chair sometimes. Nobody wants to hear that I wear out quicker than I used to, still. Or that my skin has aged 10 years in 2 and my hair is different and sometimes I honestly don’t even recognize myself in the mirror. Or how afraid I am to cut my hair because it’s finally THERE – but it doesn’t look good and needs to be cut. The last two times I was at the salon it was to get it shaved because it was falling out. The big one that nobody wants to hear is the doc says it will be back. They all say that I shouldn’t “own” that prognosis, that I should “stay positive” and keep eating healthier foods, etc. They’re right to a point. But where’s the balance between hope/positive outlook and reality/probability? And what you said about survivor’s guilt, I feel that, too. I tell MYSELF that I shouldn’t complain about (fill in the blank) … at least I am ALIVE. Some days I wonder why I fought so hard to be alive when life is hard and I feel lonely. Then I feel even more guilty. Especially when I think about my cousin Shirley who died of ovarian cancer about 2 years before I was diagnosed with PPC. I see her grandkids’ pictures on FB – they were all born after she died. I wonder why I’m still here, and she isn’t. And I do my best to live every day to the fullest and live it the way God would have me to live, but still wonder if it is enough, if I am “paying it forward” enough, appreciative enough. I guess it all comes down to what most of life comes down to: balance. Make the best of the bad days, enjoy the hell out of the good ones, and be glad to wake up for another one. Those who didn’t make it wouldn’t want us wasting time feeling bad that they didn’t and we did! I guess I’ll stop rambling.


    • Shanron, survivor’s guilt is a powerful thing. You amaze me with how committed you are to paying it forward.


  5. Hi Patsy, Thank you very much for following my blog! I have read this post and I have a question for you….why do say that cancer patients/survivors have feelings of guilt?
    I too experience the “I am done” feeling…did not feel like celebrating until the following 28th day came and I finally realized I did not have to have a chemo cocktail again!…but I was far from done….as a matter of fact it got worse. I think chemo did more damage to my body than good….but then again I am in my 6th year NED so I guess it did its work also. Blessings!!


    • Hi Marcia and welcome to my blog. I am thrilled to have you here and what you are doing with your life. I think we sometimes feel guilt that we are still living when others that had cancer pass away. I also see guilt creep in when we may need to voice things that are not going well and we then think of others that have a more difficult time than we do. I sometimes feel guilty when I get good reports and wonder why this happened to me when others deserve it. These are just some examples. Guilt is a powerful creature for sure. Thanks so much for asking the question and please keep them coming! I really want to share when is most useful to my readers.


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