Life After Cancer: Tips for Living a Happy, Healthy Life as a Cancer Survivor
Leisa Butts is the survivorship coordinator at Bronson Cancer Center - Battle Creek. Her role is to walk beside patients on their cancer journey and help them plan for life after treatment. Bronson Cancer Center - Battle Creek is recognized by the Joint Commission with the Gold Seal of Approval. This means it meets national standards for quality of care, so you can trust you’re getting the best possible cancer care.
Authored by: Leisa Butts – Survivorship Coordinator, Bronson Cancer Center - Battle Creek
An estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors are currently living in the United States. That number is expected to grow to over 20.3 million by 2026. While I wish that millions of people didn’t have to fight cancer, the good news is that survival rates are improving. According to the National Cancer Institute, an average of 67 percent of those diagnosed become cancer survivors as deaths from cancer have dropped 26 percent since 1991.
There are two key factors in beating cancer: Finding cancer early and getting high quality, comprehensive treatment. After treatment, having support and making healthy lifestyle choices are also extremely important when getting back to “normal” day-to-day life. This is where cancer survivorship starts.
What is Cancer Survivorship?
During treatment, patients are focused on their cancer journey. They are meeting regularly with their oncologist and are receiving ongoing treatment. When this ends, however, activity slows and the waiting begins. Many survivors say this phase of cancer can be one of the most difficult times.
At Bronson Cancer Center, we recognize the emotional toll of living with, through and beyond cancer—and we’re here to help. We offer emotional, spiritual, medical and financial support services throughout treatment. We also work to help patients plan their “new normal” when treatment ends.
One of the tools used is a survivorship care plan—a comprehensive report summarizing the treatment each patient receives, including an after-treatment plan outline. We’re proud to say that we develop a survivorship care plan for every cancer patient who requests one, and every patient who participates in our free survivorship program. And, at Bronson Cancer Center, our support doesn’t end there. Our team is available to each survivor whenever they have questions—no matter how long after treatment those questions arise.
The Power of Support
Following cancer treatment, many survivors report feelings of loneliness. Worry sets in: ‘Is the cancer going to come back?’; ‘When am I going to start feeling like myself again?’; ‘How am I going to pay for all of my bills?’ are common fears survivors have.
Based on research, we know patients who are less worried and more positive have better outcomes and heal quicker. Because of this, we try to ensure all our survivors have the support of loved ones, close friends and/or a care team to help them manage the path to recovery. Each month, we offer cancer support groups. This is an opportunity for cancer survivors and their loved ones to come together, talk about their journey and understand they are not alone. At the meetings, we often have a guest presenter. One month, a dietitian may stop by to teach participants how to make a low-calorie meal; the next we may have a yoga instructor teach a chair yoga class. The goal is to build a community of survivors who can support one another.
For some survivors, we also suggest seeking out additional support. Licensed therapists can help them work through emotions and grief.
Eating Well and Being Active
Staying physically active is linked to a higher quality of life for cancer survivors. Maintaining a healthy weight is linked to a decreased risk of cancer reoccurring. Because of this, we encourage our survivors to eat a healthy, balanced diet and make physical activities they enjoy a part of their daily life.
Bronson Cancer Center has a registered dietitian who can help create nutrition plans.
The Importance of a Primary Care Doctors
After the final round of treatment is done, oncologists work with each patient’s primary care doctor to help ensure a smooth transition of care. As part of Bronson’s survivorship care plan, each patient receives an individualized follow-up plan. The plan outlines what routine follow up will look like, as well as what appointments and tests are needed.
For those who do not have a primary care doctor, we help them find a provider who will meet their healthcare needs. We believe it’s essential for patients to partner with a provider on their health on an ongoing basis.
A Higher Level of Cancer Care
Bronson offers a full range of cancer services. Whether a patient is recently diagnosed or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, care is never far away. Bronson Cancer Center - Battle Creek, located within Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, is accredited by:
- The Commission of Cancer of the American College of Surgeons (since 1995)
- The Joint Commission with its Gold Seal of Approval™
In addition to the survivorship program and other support services mentioned above, our comprehensive cancer services include:
- Prevention programs
- State-of-the-art technology and medicine
- Robotic surgery using the da Vinci® Surgical System
- Clinical trials and research
- Support services like social workers, transportation, pain management, advanced illness management and financial counseling
Bronson Oncology & Hematology Specialists has offices in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. To learn more about the exceptional cancer care at Bronson, visit bronsonhealth.com/cancer.