Real life experiences after treatment

Just because treatment's over, it doesn't mean life suddenly 'goes back to normal'. Lots of young people say that this was when it hit them the hardest emotionally. The young people below reflect on their experiences and what it was like for them after treatment. As you'll see, for many, it was a time when extra support mattered most.

Emily - I'm looking at life a little differently after what I've been through

"I was in college studying childcare and education but I had to drop out completely. I spoke to my young people’s social worker Mary-Anne at the time and she helped me go through my options, whether I wanted to look at apprenticeships or different jobs I might be able to do.

"I decided to take some time out and see how things go. I want to have some time to think about what I want to do with my life. I had a huge lack of concentration before I was diagnosed and I wasn’t able to continue with the course. I think now I’ll be looking to do something completely different. I’m looking at life a little differently after what I’ve been through this year.

"Cancer changes the way you view things. I tend not to judge things as easily as I used to or as others tend to do. People can make judgements on others, like on how they dress or how they look. But I’ve spent the last few months looking “different” which has helped me understand things a little better."

Cancer can change your outlook on things. If you're thinking about going back to education or doing something new, take a look at our guidance.

Haroon - I spent a lot of time revamping my CV and going over my interview skills

"My young person’s community worker, Tracy, filled that gap between leaving hospital and getting back to normal. She provided a lot of counselling and mentoring support because I’d just finished treatment. I felt quite fragile. I felt depressed. I’d put on a lot of extra weight with the steroids. She found an exercise class for me specifically for cancer patients.

"Once I was feeling better physically, a couple of months down the line, we then looked into getting back into employment. She helped me re-assess my career options and focus on what I actually wanted to do, rather than what I thought I should do because of what my degree had been in. I decided I didn’t want to be an accountant, tied to a desk with no interaction with other people. I’m more into building relationships and networking.

"The feedback I got from interviews I went for was that my cancer wasn’t an issue, it was my lack of work experience – obviously, having got cancer in my last year at university stopped me getting the work experience placements I needed. But Tracy encouraged me to volunteer for charities like CLIC Sargent and TCT where I led on some projects and use examples of this experience in interviews.

"The guidance she gave me is something I now pass on to other young Asian people who have been diagnosed in the local community. Word has spread and people say “Go and speak to Haroon. He’s been through it and come out the other end”."

Get more information about starting, or getting back into work.

Harry - I realised it was a big old world out there and it was a really scary place

"I got the test results back in April 2012. I was able to walk again and went back to the doctor and he shook my hand and told me that I was out of treatment. They can never say all clear, but he said I was in the best position and could move on with my life and start putting this behind me. So then it was a case of getting back on my feet.

"But I realised it was a big old world out there and it was a really scary place. I wasn’t ready for it at all, which caused me to fall into depression.

"The hospital felt like the only world I knew. Hospital care and bed had been my routine for so long that I struggled to process coming out of it. The support structures feel like they fall away and I know that there are people you can go to, but I was used to just being surrounded by support. It was a very difficult process to get used to. Suddenly there was other people to worry about. I went back to my delivery job and it was a huge shock to the system from being treated like royalty by medical staff to not being treated very well at all. I wasn’t quite emotionally ready.

"I have definitely been changed by cancer. I think about things a lot more now. I overthink and I worry about things. I over assess things that I’ve done. I know I will never be the same person again. It has changed me in many ways, although it's mostly changed me for the better.

"I certainly appreciate the small things more. I also say yes to things that I might not have said yes to before. I often see people getting stressed and angry about the smallest of things in life which would now not phase me one bit. It's refreshing to see that these small things are all some people have to worry about and not something like what I had to go through. I would hate for anyone to have to deal with that.

"Most importantly, I am loving life now and things are great. It took a while with many struggles, but I got through it."

If you feel anxious or depressed, get emotional support and speak to someone now.

Jennifer - Your cancer friends understand what you are going through

"I finished chemotherapy at the end of 2015 but that hasn’t been the end things. For the first year of treatment I spent most of the time in hospital. Mentally I was OK with everything then, I think that’s because I was surrounded by a lot of people who were going through the same as me. I had people I could speak to, like the friends I made. Your cancer friends understand what you are going through. You go to them for things that you wouldn’t talk to friends at home about.

"I also had four nurses who I could speak to about anything who were there for me the whole time, and James my CLIC Sargent Social Worker was there for me too. It was like being in a bubble.

"But when I went home it was much harder. It wasn’t until one of the friends I made passed away that everything I’d been through hit me at once, and I realised I hadn’t dealt with anything. All these feelings I’d bottled up over the past year just exploded and I hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to leave my flat, I didn’t want to speak to anyone, I just shut everyone out. My mum and dad were really worried about me.

"Every three months I still have to have my bone marrow tested. They screw deeply into my hip to get the sample, then I have to wait for the results, which makes me really anxious. Emotionally I go in a circle. Leading up to the bone marrow each time I’m anxious and down, then worried about the results. Then once I start to feel better again, it’s time for another test.

"For me talking to my cancer friends has been the most helpful thing. CLIC Sargent also helped me sort out some problems with my Personal Independence Payments and I can go and see him or call him whenever I need to."

Some friends are bound to find it difficult to really 'get' what you've been through. Join our community and carry on speaking to people who've been through similar experiences.

Adam - It took me a whole to get back to real life

"It can be difficult to deal with life after treatment. People assume that you will just get back to normality overnight but it’s not the case. My social worker, James, had always said things would be different afterwards and he was 100% right. It took me a while to get back to real life.

"Life goes on and at first it was strange not to have all the attention after being ill. But I concentrated on education and focused on what I wanted to do.

"My illness is always going to be part of my life now and I will always worry about it coming back. When I was diagnosed, I was so angry that this cancer would ruin my university years but in a strange way, the last few years have still been the best of my life.

"People don’t really understand that because they think it must have been terrible, and it was, but I also learned so much during that time, about other people, myself and life. You don’t really realise how many very nice people are out there, and if it hadn’t been for my illness, I would have never found out."

Where next?

Created November 2017, next review due 2019.