From the Ovacome Magazine Summer 2018

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Many may expect to feel relief or elation when their treatment ends. But Ovacome’s support services manager, Anna Hudson, explains that often this is not the case.

"One of the subjects which comes up a lot on the support line is the end of treatment. Although everyone’s experience of ovarian cancer is different, we are often contacted by women whose feelings around the end of treatment have taken them by surprise."

"What they expected to feel is not what they are feeling at all. Women contact us because they think they ‘should’ be feeling relieved, elated and free; instead they feel scared, anxious and alone."

"There is no way that you ‘should’ feel at the end of treatment. The nature of cancer treatment is that it begins rapidly after diagnosis and it puts your body under great strain, often through major surgery and chemotherapy."

"At the same time, you are given an enormous amount of information about ovarian cancer and treatment which you have to think through and take decisions over. Also, you have to manage a succession of hospital appointments and various debilitating side-effects. For many women, it is only after these processes have ended that there is any time or space to think about what has happened."

"There are many helpful resources available for the end of treatment and we have listed some of them at the end of this article. They often mention feelings of anxiety, anger, lack of confidence and sadness, for example."

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A sense of grief

"A term that is rarely used is grief, yet the feelings after treatment can feel like grieving losses. The losses experienced can be multiple: who you were before the cancer diagnosis; how your body was; your trust in your body; plans for the future which had to change. The experience can also raise feelings about past losses and make losses you later experience feel especially painful."

"Thinking about the end of treatment as a time of grief can be helpful in terms of viewing what is happening as being like a bereavement. As with any bereavement, different feelings will come up at different times and it is not something to be got over or moved on from; instead it is an experience which is lived through where the feelings of loss gradually become less overwhelming."

"A further difficulty at this time can be that friends and family can be in a very different place. They have had time to work through their own feelings about your cancer while you were having treatment. Now they can’t understand why you’re not in a position to ‘put it behind you’ and get on with your life; while you may be wondering what that looks like, following this life-changing experience."

"Every relationship is different and you will know the best way to approach the different people in your life, but you will need to make time to explain to them how you are feeling. Macmillan Cancer Support produces many useful booklets and its Talking About Cancer and Cancer, you and your partner may be helpful if you are unsure how to begin."

"Often it can feel that the safety-net of your hospital team has disappeared until your next clinic appointment in three months or more time. It’s important to realise that these people are still there for you."

"When you finish treatment you will be given a number for your first point of contact at the hospital, often this will be your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). You can always contact him or her with any questions."

"At first you may find that you worry about every twinge, niggle and ache which you would have ignored before diagnosis, but now you could find yourself wondering if it is the cancer coming back. Usually the gaps between times of worry lengthen as you move further away from treatment. The feeling of ‘scanxiety’ – worry around test and scan results – is unlikely to ever leave entirely, but many women find it lessens as time goes on."

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Please remember that the Ovacome support line is here to offer you help and personalised support in difficult times. Call 0800 008 7054 or email [email protected] (Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm).