Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I recently found out that I’m in remission but I am fearful that the cancer will come back. What can I do to lessen my anxiety?
A. Fear of recurrence (cancer returning) is very common and understandable in the context of your recent cancer experience. There are several ways in which you can manage this anxiety:
- Practical. Ask your oncologist about chances of recurrence and schedule regular tests to check for signs that the cancer may have returned and steps you can take to increase the chances that it will not. Assess your life and look at your daily routine. Are there things you could improve about your diet? Ways to increase your physical activity? Things you can do to help you relax? To sleep better?
- Emotional. Consider talking to a professional counselor, such as an oncology social worker at CancerCare who can suggest ways to manage your anxiety and help you process your feelings. Many cancer survivors also find support groups very helpful, as they can talk to other survivors with similar worries and fears and learn new coping skills. View support groups at CancerCare by visiting www.cancercare.org or read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “The Value of an Oncology Social Worker” for more information.
- Social. Talk to your trusted friends or family members about your concerns. Even if there are just one or two people with whom you feel comfortable sharing your fears, this can be a powerful way to get some relief from your anxiety. Making sure you continue to engage in hobbies and socialize with your friends is an essential and healthy form of distraction.
- Spiritual. Reflect on what makes your life meaningful, both before and after cancer. What values and activities are important to you? How can you continue to honor those things you hold dear? Focusing on the bigger picture can help minimize the anxiety and remind you what you can do in the here-and-now to live a full life.
Q. The financial impact of treating my cancer has hit me and my family hard. The bills just keep coming, and I am having trouble keeping on top of them all. How can I manage them?
A. Cancer is a very expensive illness. Even with insurance, most people are financially unprepared for the out-of-pocket expenses for their medical care. Covering general daily living expenses can also be challenging, especially when your treatment and follow-up care have prevented you from earning a regular income.
Getting organized can give you a greater sense of control over your life and priorities, including financial matters. Here are a few simple tips from Cancer.Net for organizing your bills and other paperwork:
Keep all cancer and treatment information in one place, in a filing system that works for you and makes it easy to find information. Keep bills and important papers in clearly labeled folders, and file new information as soon as possible, so it doesn’t get lost.
If you have health insurance, ask your insurance provider to assign you to a case manager, so you can talk with the same person each time you need to call. Take written notes of any conversations with insurance company representatives, including the date, name of the person you spoke with, and what was said.
Determine which bills demand payment, which can be deferred, and which ones you can arrange a payment plan for. Negotiate payment plans for your monthly bills with your utility company, phone provider, and other creditors who may offer assistance programs to people in need.
Read Cancer.Net’s guide “Managing the Cost of Cancer Care” for more tips. For additional guidance in managing medical debt, call the Patient Advocate Foundation (1-800-532-5274) to speak with a trained case manager, or visit their website, www.patientadvocate.org.
Q. I’ve finished treatment and now I feel like I’m on my own. What support services should a cancer survivor look for after finishing treatment?
A. A variety of physical and emotional responses can come up after treatment ends. Reaching out for support is a very healthy way of taking care of yourself. Engaging in certain activities can help you to regain some sense of control and be an active participant in your recovery. Take a moment to think about the people who have been helpful to you. Your “team” includes the doctors, nurses, social workers, alternative health practitioners, other survivors and the family and friends who surround you. Defining and understanding the distinct role that each person plays is beneficial so you know where to turn when you need help. Who can answer medical questions? What programs exist to help financially? Who do you approach when you need a good listener? Keep in mind the following services as you evaluate your current needs:
- Peer support, through support groups or survivor matching programs, allows you the opportunity to learn from others and find emotional support.
- Individual counseling provides a space to process the many complex feelings that come with cancer survivorship.
- Financial assistance programs are available to help with some medically related expenses such as co-pays for medication, as well as out of pocket costs associated with transportation.
- Alternative therapies such as Reiki, acupuncture or massage can help you alleviate side effects such as fatigue and pain. Relaxation techniques may also help you manage feelings of anxiety.
Taking inventory of available supportive services is an important first step. Think about what services would be a good fit for you given your current needs. If it’s not clear or you are having trouble finding local services, speak with an oncology social worker who can help guide you.