Life after cancer is bright thanks to a commitment to research, innovative therapies and targeted screenings that catch cancer when it’s easier to treat. These advancements, along with a shift to treating the whole person instead of just the disease, add up to one important benefit: More people are surviving and thriving in life after cancer.
Everyone approaches survivorship a little differently. Some may be eager to get back to the activities they once enjoyed; others may realize they need to adjust expectations to cope with side effects from treatment. And in some cases, individuals may be dealing with fear and uncertainty about what their lives will be like after months and months of near-daily doctor appointments.
One key guide on this journey to survivorship is a nurse navigator. Your nurse navigator stays by your side from the time you first meet at diagnosis and through survivorship.
“We really are a patient’s advocate and representative wherever they are in their journey,” explains Arlene Larin, RN, a navigator at Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center. “We’re here to answer questions, find resources and help you in any way we can – and that doesn’t stop just because you’ve finished treatment.”
A plan to make it easier
Arlene and her team work closely with patients and their families to help guide patients into their new normal.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety after treatments are over,” explains Arlene. “Our patients worry about who they can ask questions to, what appointments they need to make and how they can go back and pick up the pieces of the life they had before a cancer diagnosis.”
“We’re here to help make that happen,” she says.
Nurse navigators can make your transition to survivorship smoother by:
- Connecting you with support groups
- Creating survivorship plans that include detailed information about follow-up care. These plans are also shared with all members of your care team, including your primary care provider.
- Preparing family and children for what to expect and how to include you in daily activities
Build healthy habits
Developing healthy habits, including eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of physical activity, are important in maintaining your overall health and reducing your risk of cancer recurrence.
“We work closely with patients to help them build a healthy and active lifestyle that meets their needs,” Arlene says. “A nutritionist is available at the Aquilino Cancer Center, free of charge, to assist with creating a meal plan to help manage symptom flare-ups and rebuild strength.”
“Physical activity is also key throughout treatments and into survivorship,” she adds. “Exercise can help give you energy, build strength and keep you healthy.”
Create a path that’s right for you
When it comes to cancer diagnosis, treatment and management, no two people are alike. That’s just as true as you embark on your journey into survivorship. Arlene encourages all patients to reach out to their nurse navigators with any questions or concerns.