From Kristina Liming, MSN, APRN, Co-Lead of OHC's Supportive Care Program

June 8, 2021

Time to rejoice. Time for a fresh start. Time to travel. Completing cancer treatment presents with a flood of emotions and a great sense of relief, but the transition to life’s next phase can also come with challenges. Cancer survivors cope with the physical, mental, emotional, and social effects of their disease and the adjustment to a new normal.

During this National Cancer Survivors Month, we celebrate the millions of cancer survivors across the country and commemorate their milestones. The number of survivors in the U.S. continues to rise as a result of advances in research and treatments as well as changes in early detection standards. How can we address the needs of these individuals as they begin the survivorship journey?

Following the successful completion of cancer treatment at OHC, we schedule a survivorship visit for every patient with an OHC advanced practice provider. Family members and caregivers are welcome to attend. During this appointment, the provider discusses a personalized follow-up care plan with information about next steps and goals for achieving wellness. Patients receive a printed copy of the plan at the end of the visit.

The survivorship visit represents the end of one phase and a transition to a new beginning. While setting realistic expectations during the visit, I spend time discussing the patient’s goals for physical activity and wellbeing. It’s important that they have a clear understanding of the schedule of follow-up visits and any maintenance medications they will continue after cancer treatment. I help patients know what to expect in terms of long-term side effects from treatment and how to manage these, with the ultimate goal of relief. I also evaluate any potential needs the patient might have at home and conduct a depression screening.

Every patient’s cancer is unique, and their survivorship plan will be too. Some patients will feel like their old selves right away and can resume all physical activities. Others might experience fatigue. Some might feel like celebrating, while others struggle with fear of cancer recurrence, uncertainty about the future, or survivor’s guilt. The survivorship plan should address counseling and emotional support, and OHC connects patients with a wealth of helpful resources and community support organizations.

Talking to others with the same fears and anxieties often helps cancer survivors. I recommend that patients utilize the resources offered by groups like Pink Ribbon Girls, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society, Cancer Support Community, and Cancer Family Care, an organization that provides therapeutic counseling and support to those touched by cancer. For more information about support organizations, visit: https://www.ohcare.com/patient-resources/community-support-resources/.

We know that exercise has physical benefits, but it can boost mood and self-esteem too. A survivorship plan will also offer recommendations for weight management, nutrition, and smoking cessation. To promote mental health outside of a support group, I frequently suggest that survivors pick up a new hobby while allowing themselves time to adjust to this new phase. And, the survivorship plan can always be modified, as it is discussed at every follow-up visit.

At OHC, we understand the emotions and challenges that come with the transition to survivorship. Making a plan for survivorship helps patients and their families cope with what can seem like a time of uncertainty. And, OHC patients can schedule a same-day appointment with an advanced practice provider to discuss worrisome symptoms or side effects. We are available to provide survivors with the support and resources they need so that every day becomes a little easier and they can focus on wellness. For more information on survivorship or to request a second opinion, visit ohcare.com or call 1-888-649-4800.

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