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How does it feel when you get the all clear?

Published: 01 Jun 2017

June 4th marks Cancer Survivors Day, which is a great opportunity to celebrate with the millions of people in the world who have fought cancer and won. And the good news is that cancer survival rates are improving all the time.

Getting the all clear is an incredibly emotional moment, and survivors tend to experience a rollercoaster of feelings – some of which may flood-in immediately, whilst others catch you unawares in the weeks and months ahead.There is no right or wrong way to react. If you’ve successfully reached the end of your treatment, here are some of the emotions you may well experience after being told you’re cancer free.

Fear

Your friends and family may want to pop open the champagne straight away, but it could take you a little while before you feel ready to celebrate. Many former cancer sufferers worry that the disease will return, so it can be helpful to have some post-treatment counselling to process any residual fears you may have.

Exhaustion

Fighting cancer is a grueling mental and physical battle. If you’ve been pushing yourself to get through treatment after treatment, and to balance your illness with maintaining the rest of your life, it will likely catch up with you at some point. Some people find that receiving the all clear means they can finally relax, at which point all the effort that has gone into beating cancer suddenly catches up with them, leaving them feeling drained. Give yourself time to recover, and take it slowly as you regain a sense of normality.

Depressed

Your loved ones will expect you to feel as elated as they do, so it can be hard sharing your emotions with them if you are experiencing feelings of sadness rather than joy. It’s not unusual to feel depressed after being given the all clear from cancer; some people wonder why they beat the disease when others were not so lucky, or find it difficult to understand why they were a cancer victim in the first place.

As with fear, counselling can help you analyse your reaction to completing treatment, and move forward towards a brighter future.

Energised

Not everyone experiences negative emotions when they beat cancer – for many, getting the all clear can generate a sense of euphoria.  You may find yourself feeling energised, with a renewed zest for life. Take advantage of this rush of endorphins and, as much as you are physically fit and able, throw yourself back into work, hobbies and dreams; anything that was put on hold while you were battling the disease.   If you’re unsure how far you should push your new-found vigor, check with your doctor.

Reacting to the all clear from cancer

Just remember, there is no ‘normal’ reaction to getting the all clear from cancer. The important thing is give yourself time to adjust and absorb the journey you have been on – and don’t be surprised if your outlook on life has changed.  You’ve been through a lot!

To aid your emotional recovery, look for external support that can help you come to terms with everything you have been through. There are a number of support groups, charities, and other people that have been in your position who can help you, so make sure you utilise the available resources in your local area.  It’s good to talk or even write down how you are feeling in in a diary or a blog to make sense of it all.

You many even want to take it further with your support network and channel your new-found energy for fighting cancer into a fundraising project, or supporting others still going through treatment.

Whatever your reaction, always understand that you are not alone: there are millions of other cancer survivors out there in the world who want to share your success and support your continuing recovery.