The concept of “new normal” is a pretty common phrase in the cancer world about the new normal a person experiences when treatment is over. Today, I’ll talk about what a person may typically face in those first few months, both physically and emotionally. Life after chemo is tough, but it’s essential to understand that if you’re feeling confused and lost, you’re not alone.

There is no “normal” cancer journey or experience; everyone’s journey and disease are unique. The same could be said, really, of any chronic illness that a person faces. Of course, there’s going to be similar issues that people may face, similar landmarks that we may encounter. But ultimately, the idea of a “normal journey” doesn’t exist, no matter what way we cut it.

But surely the idea of normalcy applies once we’ve completed treatment for cancer, right? Not necessarily.

The Diagnosis Doesn’t Come Easy

doctor reading a cancer diagnosis

Cancer Diagnosis

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, it goes without saying that your current reality is going to change. You’ll be faced with a multitude of decisions that you’ll need to make: what sort of treatment options will you go with? Will you keep working or going to school? What kind of support will you need during treatment?

Due to the uncertainty, our minds often focus on the day to day, on the upcoming surgery or treatments ahead, it focuses on the here and now because we’re not sure what tomorrow will bring.

Life After Chemo: What Happens After Treatment?

When treatment is over, however, some people experience a mix of emotions: a sense of relief and joy that this vast and often challenging experience is over. But also a sense of dread at this new and unknown landscape. What do I mean by that?

Well, you’ve finished treatment, it’s over. Life after chemo means going back to normal, right? Not necessarily. When treatment is over, and everything is “said and done,” it’s not as simple as some people think: going back to the way things were. For starters, our bodies are recovering from treatment, and we may experience a multitude of side-effects. Fatigue, for example, is a very common side-effect and one that just doesn’t directly go away when we get more sleep. There are also a lot of other physical side-effects that could occur based on the sort of treatment that you’ve had. These side-effects aren’t like a light switch and don’t just immediately dissipate with your last day of treatment. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes our friends and family members assume that now that the “hard part” is over, things will automatically just shift right back.

Battling Your Emotions

life after chemo patient

Cancer Treatment

And what about those mix of emotions I mentioned? It’s widespread to feel a little lost after treatment. It can feel a little bit like you’re a warrior without a war. This often surprises people as they were expecting to feel a sense of relief and to just fall back into their old routines. But often, you can’t simply just “go back to the way things were.” You’ve experienced something truly life-changing, and it affects how you interact with the world and with your friends and family.

This transition is quite common, and it doesn’t make you ungrateful to reflect on the experiences you’ve had and wonder how you’ll move forward. Just like every cancer journey is unique, so is the transition to your new normal after treatment ends.

Taking Extra Care of Yourself

This new normal may include you taking extra time to care for yourself as your body is still adjusting to the effects of treatment. This new normal could mean needing more time between social visits due to fatigue. It could mean going back to work but only at a part-time capacity for awhile. Ultimately, the idea of a “new normal” simply means that you are allowing yourself to take the time necessary to adjust both physically and emotionally to the experience you’ve had.

Final Thoughts

Life after chemo may seem overwhelming, even a little frustrating, at first. But your new routine will fall into place, and you’ll begin to feel comfortable navigating this unique experience. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that not knowing exactly how you feel right now, or how you want to proceed doesn’t make you ungrateful, or strange. There is a lot of support out there for individuals who have recently completed treatment, and I strongly encourage you to look up what’s available in your particular region.