Coping with emotions after finishing cancer treatment

No one expects to be diagnosed with cancer, and it can be just as hard to know what to expect after treatment is over.

A sense of relief is expected when you reach the end of your treatment, but other emotions may be a surprise.

There are many emotions that you may feel after finishing cancer treatment, such as relief and happiness that your treatment is over, or upset and worried about the future and when you’ll start to feel normal again.

You might even feel a sense of loss when facing your new normal and the reality that this no longer involves the regular routine of treatment and day-to-day contact with your care team and support network.

It's normal for your emotions to change from day-to-day or week-to-week

How you feel after treatment ends will be impacted by many different areas of your life, and your emotions are also likely to change over time. Emotions can change from day-to-day or week-to-week and can be both positive and negative, with many different triggers. It’s important not to judge yourself based on any one emotion and be mindful of the impact of other feelings like stress and fatigue.

Reactions within your family may be different than you expect

It’s likely that your family members or caregivers are going through their own emotional journey. They may be afraid of your cancer returning and are learning to cope with these fears. It’s also possible that they don’t know how to support you and feel helpless, or that their own lives have been affected by your diagnosis in ways they hadn’t anticipated.

Sometimes it's hard to know how you should feel when you finish treatment

It can be hard to know how you should feel after finishing cancer treatment. Hearing from other patients who have gone through the same journey can help you better understand your own emotions now that your treatment has ended.

We recently asked our Facebook community what unexpected emotions they experienced after finishing their treatment. Here are some of the insights they shared:

  • I was just relieved that my treatment was finished
  • Relief. Anxiety. Feeling lost. It’s the weirdest thing
  • Grateful and free to move forward
  • The routine of treatment was very comforting
  • I felt like the chemo journey was over. I felt relieved and stayed positive
  • I didn’t feel emotional at my last treatment. My emotion came when my fantastic haematologist announced I was in remission!
  • Jubilant!
  • After the whirlwind of surgery and then straight into chemotherapy and six weeks of daily radiation, I felt very lost and vulnerable as suddenly I wasn’t having treatment and seeing any health professionals. It is such a lonely and isolating time
  • To be honest, I felt frightened. While I was having treatment, I felt like the cancer was being kept at bay. I was worried that the end of treatment might mean the cancer would come back
  • My husband didn’t show any emotions until his last treatment when he rang the bell. He just bawled his eyes out. So many emotions were kept in through treatment. The relief he felt was just so overwhelming
  • Relief, but trying to get some normality back can be challenging. Some days you can feel alright, but on others motivation can be hard to come by

ReferencesReferences

For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Cancer Council NSW. (2021, December 8). Living well after cancer. Retrieved June 22, 2022, from https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-information/living-well/after-cancer-treatment/
  2. National Cancer Institute. (2021, November 23). Feelings and Cancer. Retrieved June 22, 2022 from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/feelings
  3. Mayo Clinic Health System. (2022, April 26). Emotional Recovery after Cancer Treatment. Retrieved June 2022 from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/emotional-recovery-after-cancer-treatment
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