Life after a cancer diagnosis: What do you do when it all falls apart?

After going through the overwhelming disruption and stress of a cancer diagnosis, many cancer patients understandably look forward to life getting back to “normal”.

But what happens what it doesn’t?

For some survivors, it can be difficult to manage every day when it feels like nobody understands what they’ve been through.

This is exactly the scenario that was the focus of Cancer Council NSW’s virtual webinar, Life changes after cancer – When it all falls apart. The webinar was the first in a series of three, which were generously funded by the Dry July Foundation.

Held on Thursday 28 May 2020, the webinar featured consumer panelists Kate Lyons and Alan King, a married couple whose lives were changed in December 2018 when Alan was diagnosed with cancer. Alan recounted his experiencing being diagnosed with cancer and discussed some of challenges of cancer treatment, including adjusting to going back to work and the cognitive impact of post-chemotherapy.

For Kate, Alan’s diagnosis “rocked” her and she found herself suddenly in a carer’s role, in addition to working full-time and being mum of three kids who, according to Kate, “just wanted to keep things as normal as possible”.

When reflecting on the difficulties of the past year, Kate struggled to remember how she got through each day, but she now reminds herself to “take each day as it comes, and just keep going”.

Alan and Kate’s story resonated with many viewers, with one viewer saying the webinar helped them to feel less alone with their thoughts and feelings. “It normalises much of the experience and resonates at a deep level,” the viewer said.

Another viewer also said that they could “not understand why I was so irritable at times to my husband” post-diagnosis, but “just listening to the webinar tonight has really resonated with me.”

The webinar featured counsellor Maxine Rosenfield. Maxine said that physical sensations of shock, emotional outburst and a racing mind, will often accompany changes to friendships, intimacy and work relationships.

When asked what advice she had for people who received a cancer diagnosis, Maxine said it was important to build a strong support network.

 “Call on your support system as soon as you can – gather your crew to help you navigate the next steps…and seek formal support such as counselling to help you through tests and treatment and beyond,” she said.

Information and support is available to anyone affect by cancer though Cancer Council 13 11 20 Information and Support. To watch the webinar, visit the Cancer Council NSW website and to sign up for Dry July and raise funds for Cancer Council NSW, click here.

Cancer Council

$881,467.16 raised

Target: $750,000