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"I Finished My Cancer Treatment Program - Now What?" Why After Care Programs are so Important

By Expert HERWriter
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I have a really good friend whose father is a Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor. He was diagnosed in January of 2007, underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, and fortunately, it did the trick. His cancer is gone, and this summer he will celebrate his 80th birthday.

My friend often talks about her Dad with me, and shares some of the struggles he’s had since his diagnosis. What always strikes me the most from our conversations is how many of this man’s current health issues and problems are not a result of the cancer itself, but rather the chemotherapy medications he received. Although it’s almost the two-year anniversary of the completion of his treatment, my friend says he continues to suffer from gastrointestinal issues, emotional stress, and other symptoms that he and many specialists all attribute to the chemotherapies.

Of course, he, my friend, and I’m sure everyone else who knows him is grateful that chemotherapy exists, and that it worked. It beats the alternative, right? But as he has shared with my friend on several occasions, it seems like once the cancer treatment ended, so did his care from the cancer center where he received his treatments. Yes, he continues to go there regularly for check-ups and he has I believe twice-yearly PET scans and things to make sure the cancer has not come back. But in terms of his side effects, he has pretty much been on his own, looking for local experts and physicians who could help him.

This just does not seem right to me. I don’t like it, and neither does my friend, that her almost-80-year-old father is having to do so much on his own to try to fully recover from his treatments. She said that his oncologist has agreed that some, if not all, of the symptoms he has now are leftover from the chemotherapies. But other than a half-hearted suggestion that he get into a cancer group therapy session or two, he has not received any help from the facility that treated him.

This got me to thinking: is my friend’s father’s experience typical, or are there cancer treatment facilities that continue to care for you once the cancer has gone away?

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I agree that an after care program could provide valuable help to cancer survivors. I just completed radiation therapy for breast cancer and now am taking tamoxifen. My follow-up appointments with my three doctors are important, as are the mammograms and MRIs I will have regularly, but it would be also helpful to get additional guidance from a program that emphasizes diet, exercise, stress management and other advice that survivors need to cope with various issues - and to be as healthy as possible.

February 11, 2010 - 1:36pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon - You're absolutely right, it's important to learn as much as you can about living well with cancer. Have you been able to find a support group in your local community? If not, would you like some help in doing so? We would be happy to help. Also, there are many posts on EmpowHer related to nutrition, diet, stress management and post treatment lifestyles that you may find helpful. Some people also enjoy participating in online support groups and there are a wide variety available. We wish you all the best in your recovery. Take care, Pat

February 11, 2010 - 6:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Michelle,
The after care programs are very important regarding cancer treatment, because there are chances for the return of cancer or spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Prevention or early detection of such effects can help a lot in stopping various side-effects that may occur after treatment. So it is very essential for all the cancer victims to continue the follow-up care even after the treatment.
Thanks for sharing a valuable doubt here.

December 3, 2009 - 10:47pm

Michele, I agree with you that 'after care' is critical. I just posted an article on EmpowHer.com called Cancer Support Groups: The Good,The Bad, and The Beautiful. It's based on my vast experience with support groups and how they can help. As for medical centers offering after care, I participate in programs at Virginia Piper Cancer Center in Scottsdale/Phoenix. They offer survivors a wide variety of cancer support survices for FREE. Many cancer centers across the country do this, as well as community groups like The Wellness Community (which has a lymphoma support group in Phoenix). These wonderful organizations exist in most major cities, so it would be great to hear from some on this site. Thanks for raising this important question. Annette Mattern, HerWriter at EmpowHer.

August 20, 2009 - 4:39pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.