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Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment

Scans, tests, and treatment have ended. You have been given the ‘all clear’. You’re better now, right? Yes and no!

“As a human, there is a lot to learn in life, period. There is no instruction manual, no training and no real guide. You pretty much learn as you live. As a cancer Survivor, we get to write an extra chapter or two – how to live as a cancer Survivor. Let’s face it, it sure isn’t easy.” (Donna Stewart cancer Survivor)

It’s tough being a cancer Survivor. Many patients struggle to adjust as treatment ends and life pushes forward relentlessly. Those around them seem to expect them to carry on as usual, because they believe now that treatment has ended, everything can go back to the way it was. But cancer leaves a legacy.

“Cancer leaves a footprint, and the footprint for every person is different. It may be physical, emotional or spiritual. If the people in our lives understood just that, it would be so helpful.” (Barbara Abernathy, Ph.D and cancer Survivor)

Survivors may feel pressure from loved ones and employers to pick up responsibilities they weren’t able to deal with during treatment, where they left off, in spite of the fact that their physical strength and emotional balance might not be what it used to be.

They plunge back into life now that they have time to themselves again, wanting to make up for ‘lost’ time, often underestimating the toll treatment has taken on their bodies and minds.

They face each new day as best they can, but many patients find that they now have chronic side effects to deal with, such as extreme fatigue, headaches, neuropathy, bone or joint pain, changes in hearing, vision, and taste, digestive difficulties, dental problems, difficulty maintaining attention, remembering or verbally expressing themselves and emotional difficulties, including depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Treatment may also have caused early menopause, infertility, low sex drive or sexual dysfunction or involved the loss of a body part.

“I feel like I get up every day and put on an 80 pound backpack. I walk through the day with it, but it’s invisible. Then I come home, take it off, go to bed – and the next morning, I put on the invisible backpack again. That’s what its like to live with the side effects. Its difficult for people to remember that when you look normal.” (Barbara Abernathy, Ph.D and cancer Survivor)

Some patients miss the support provided by regular interaction with their medical team and from those who supported them during treatment. They find that they are scared to be honest with those around them about how they really are doing and how they are feeling, for fear that they’ll be seen to be looking for sympathy, when in fact they need their experience post-treatment to be affirmed.

“I think people feel that they must solve your problems. You can’t solve my problem. Be there. Be supportive. And, most importantly, listen.” (Barbara Abernathy, Ph. D and cancer Survivor)

As cancer Survivors begin their post-treatment journey they find that their priorities in life have shifted, their friendships may have dwindled, but become more substantial, and they are coming to grips with their ‘new normal’. The fear of a recurrence is always looming, and scheduled scans can bring on tremendous anxiety, a phenomenon known as ‘scanxiety’.

In loving memory of Dave Ulyate who passed away in 2019

Dave Ulyate, cancer Survivor, poignantly describes the journey in his ‘Ferris Wheel of Cancer’:

“I feel I’m on a never-ending ferris wheel ride. When you start off at the bottom, you do not have much of a view and life can seem so glum and dreary, full of anxiety for the ride ahead. You have been told – ‘You have cancer’.

Then the motor kicks in and you start to move, treatment starts – be it chemo, radiation and even surgery. The initial trip is all up-hill and suddenly you discover you have a fear of heights. The grim reality hits and starts to sink in. Despair takes a hold of you and you realise there’s no way out and that your stuck with this curse. Survival kicks in, and the warrior within tells you to hold onto all hope, faith and to have courage.

We now reach halfway, the in-between emotions state, will I or won’t I conquer this issue?

The wheel gradually lifts you up to the top, treatment is over and what a view. If you are fortunate enough you may be told – ‘We have it under control’. Elation takes over and you start looking forward to the ride down.

Then we reach the halfway stage, the only stage that has two halves, and doubts start tricking your mind, every ache or pain is met with fear. But somehow you overcome the emotions.

Slowly the wheel reaches the bottom and stops, for the individual cabins of those who are clear to leave, and they leave with an experience they will never forget.

But then there are those of us whose cabins don’t stop and we must continue the journey of ups and downs. I think especially of my fellow brothers and sisters who are caught in this eternal circle, yes we are family in a strange way , Warriors, Survivors and most of all Champions.”

Supporting You in Your Journey:

Each cancer Survivor is unique and CANSA is here to support you in your Survivorship journey. You are not alone.

If you need to chat to a counsellor face-to-face or join a support group, please get in touch with your local CANSA Care Centre, or if you would prefer to connect with other Survivors online, please join our Facebook Support Group: CANSA Survivors – Champions of Hope. There you will meet other Survivors who are willing to share their journey with you, and you can inspire them with yours also.

CANSA Tele Counselling can be accessed via the CANSA Help Desk on 0800 22 66 22 toll free, to make an appointment with a CANSA counsellor. Or send an email to the Help Desk via counselling@cansa.org.za – this is a confidential, professional, cancer-related telephonic counselling service to cancer patients, caregivers and their families and parents or guardians of children living with cancer. Counselling is available in seven languages (English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati, Sesotho and Setswana) and is free of charge.

CANSA Booklets to Help Manage Cancer Patients’ Pain in the Home

CANSA and partners announce the release of two booklets, the ‘CANSA At Home Pain Guide’ and the ‘CANSA At Home Guide for Children with Pain’ to help patients, loved ones, families and caregivers to cope with pain management. #CANSAAtHomePainGuides #CANSACares #MyCareMyComfort

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Published: 21 Oct 2020 | Last Updated: 17 May 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA's Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) Programme, I have Cancer

Free Webinar Series: Cancer Dojo Talks by Conn Bertish Sponsored by Sanlam

Join cancer survivor & founder of Cancer Dojo, Conn Bertish for the first of his eight free webinars from September to November for cancer warriors sponsored by CANSA’s partner, Sanlam aimed at cancer survivors, patients and caregivers.

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Published: 29 Sep 2020 | Last Updated: 10 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Webinars, I have Cancer

Tips to Cope When Your Cancer has Spread

Dr Inge Kriel an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital says that learning that your cancer has spread can be devastating. Dr Kriel provides the following tips to those coping with a diagnosis of metastatic cancer…

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Published: 28 Sep 2020 | Last Updated: 9 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, I have Cancer, Men's Health, Women's Health

CANSA Tele Counselling Launch Webinar

CANSA is proud to have launched their Tele Counselling service which will give people affected by cancer the opportunity to get remote counselling – especially needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Published: 10 Sep 2020 | Last Updated: 10 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Webinars, I have Cancer

Video: CANSA Tele Counselling Service

CANSA Tele Counselling can be accessed via the CANSA Help Desk on 0800 22 66 22 toll free, to make an appointment with a CANSA counsellor. Or send an email to the Help Desk via counselling@cansa.org.za

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Published: 21 Aug 2020 | Last Updated: 10 Mar 2021
Categories: A Loved One has Cancer, Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Bloemfontein Care Centre, CANSA Eastern Cape, CANSA Free State, CANSA Gauteng, CANSA Help Desk, CANSA KwaZulu-Natal, CANSA Limpopo, CANSA Mpumalanga, CANSA North West, CANSA Northern Cape, CANSA Western Cape, I have Cancer

Facebook Live Session Encourages Breast Cancer Survivors

As part of our #CANSACares series in #WomenMonth, a Facebook LIVE session aimed at #breastcancer survivors was held on Friday, 7 August 2020. Watch session…

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Published: 6 Aug 2020 | Last Updated: 9 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Webinars, I have Cancer, Women's Health

Xylon van Eyck – Facebook Live Session – ‘Reimagining and cancer’

CANSA was honoured to host ‘Reimagining and cancer’ featuring cancer survivor Xylon Van Eyck with Mentor and Life Coach Sean Daly on a Facebook Live session on Friday 26 June 2020. This was the latest in a series of lunchtime webinars hosted on CANSA’s Facebook Page, with the aim of featuring speakers who can offer information and advice to help cancer patients and those affected by cancer.

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Published: 25 Jun 2020 | Last Updated: 10 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Webinars, I have Cancer

Ricardo Warrior – WarriorRic to Inspire & Motivate on Instagram

CANSA is excited to host Ricardo Warrior: WarriorRic (aka Ricardo Gressel), set to motivate those affected by cancer. The theme was ‘ Getting to Know Ourselves Better through Lockdown for a Better Post-COVID World’.  Watch the video at this link on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAccIpxHPHw/?igshid=1l4emqqq0819 This will be the second session in a series of regular, weekly […]

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Published: 19 May 2020 | Last Updated: 10 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Webinars, I have Cancer

Richard Wright – Facebook Live Session – Are You Practising Self Care?

CANSA is honoured to host Richard Wright’s “Are you practising self-care?” on our Facebook Live session on Thursday 7 May at 12:00pm. This will be the first of regular weekly lunchtime webinars hosted on CANSA’s Facebook Page, with the aim of featuring speakers who can offer information and advice to help cancer patients and those […]

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Published: 6 May 2020 | Last Updated: 10 Mar 2021
Categories: Beyond Diagnosis & Treatment, CANSA Webinars, I have Cancer

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