Supportive Care at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center
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Frequently Asked Questions

Relationships

Treatment has ended and after many months of treatment I am on my own. Who do I call if I have a problem?

Your oncologist will schedule regular appointments with you after treatment has ended. If you experience a problem unrelated to your cancer, contact your primary care doctor. If you think your problem is related to your cancer, contact your oncologist. Remember, when you have had cancer, there are no “stupid” questions.

I feel as though my safety net has been pulled away. I am almost as frightened as when I was told I would need treatment.

It is not unusual to miss the support and encouragement you received from the health care team. These feelings should lessen as you resume your normal activities. If you find that these fears continue for a long period of time, call your doctor to see what he/she suggests or look for a support group in your area, meeting with other cancer patients might help to normalize your feelings.

I am so afraid that the cancer may return. How do I deal with these thoughts?

Fear of recurrence is a normal consequence of having had cancer. There will be days that you have negative thoughts and other days when you can put it all behind you. You will be most vulnerable when check-up time arrives or when you have to have a scan. There are no easy answers. Discuss these fears with your doctor or nurse, talk to others who have experienced the same fears, or join a cancer survivor’s support group. Seek help if you find that your emotions prevent you from resuming your normal activities.

My hair is gone. I have gained/lost weight and have had a mastectomy. How do I deal with these issues?

Hair starts to grow back from one to three months after treatment has stopped and may take up to six months to grow in completely. You may find that the color and texture of your hair may be different, thin instead of thick, curly instead of straight, and darker or lighter in color. Make an appointment with your hairdresser who can help you through this “bad hair time” if this becomes an issue for you.

Some people gain weight during their chemotherapy treatments, while others lose weight. Either can be problematic when you want to look and feel your best after treatment. Make an appointment with our nutritionist who will have many suggestions on how to deal with these problems.

If you have had a mastectomy and need prosthesis and/or bras, be aware that your insurance company may cover these items and they can be replenished every two years. If you have questions on where to find these items, contact a Joan Karnell Cancer Center social worker.

When will the fatigue resolve?

It often takes up to three months after completion of chemotherapy to start to feel your normal energy level return. If you have concerns about ongoing fatigue or other symptoms, talk with your health care team.

Emotional Issues

I am returning to work, but I do not feel like the same person I was before I was diagnosed with cancer. People, family included, expect me to be happy and full of energy and to start where I left off before my diagnosis. How do I talk with them and help themunderstand what I am feeling without sounding neurotic?

It is very normal to feel this way. Let them know that survival is a process and that it will take time for you to readjust to this new normal. Concentrate on what is good for you and do not worry about pleasing others. Joining a support group where you can talk to others facing the same issues can be very helpful and help you to handle the emotions you are having.

Relationships with friends have become awkward. Some people were there for me when I was first diagnosed and stayed with me throughout the treatment process, while others chose to keep their distance.

There are many reasons that friends chose to distance themselves from those they had been close to. Some just do not know what to say, others might feel survivors’ guilt, and the truth is that you may lose some friends along the way, but you will also know who your really good friends are and who you can count on when help is needed.

I am single, finished with my treatment, and have recently started to date again. How and when do I disclose my cancer diagnosis to new people in my life?

Fear of rejection often keeps cancer patients from developing new relationships. Nowhere is it written that you must disclose any of your personal affairs on a first or even second date. Wait to see how the relationship develops, and then go from there.

I am married. Since my diagnosis and treatment, my husband and I have changed the way we intimately relate to one another.

Even couples who have been married for many years often find it difficult to “find their groove” after treatment. Cancer can put up a wall between people. This is the time that communication becomes very important, talk to your partner, share your feelings, let him/her know how you feel. Remember that sexual intimacy can take many forms: holding hands, a light kiss hello or goodbye, or just sitting down and sharing a special dinner together.

 


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