Dealing with anxiety after non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Anxiety after finishing cancer treatment is normal. Take steps to lessen its effect on you as you focus on recovery.
After non-Hodgkin's lymphoma treatment, you may feel a sense of relief to move forward from treatment and get back to your life as it was. But you also might feel anxious — as if your life has changed in ways that are hard to explain. It may seem hard to get back to normal. It's common for cancer survivors to feel many emotions, including anxiety, especially anxiety about cancer coming back. This is a reasonable response to a big health change.
To help handle anxiety, you may need to decide what normal means to you after all the changes you've gone through. Know that there are things you can do and support services available to help you cope.
Common anxiety triggers
If you're feeling anxious, it could be for any number of reasons. Survivors of blood cancers report feeling high anxiety due to fear of cancer recurrence, especially in advance of follow-up testing visits.
And as you transition to recovery — and active "cancer-fighting" treatment ends and monitoring lessens — you may feel more vulnerable. You may worry that any pain or other symptoms indicate your cancer has returned.
Other common worries include how your cancer has or will affect your family, employment, finances and physical abilities.
Some of this anxiety may be part of your new normal. But there are things you can do to help manage the anxiety.
What you can do
To help manage anxiety:
- Learn the signs and symptoms that may tell you that your cancer has returned. Talk to your health care team if you have a concerning symptom. Your team can advise you whether it's something you need to have evaluated.
- Learn what you can do to lower your cancer risk — focus on the healthy choices you can make in areas of your life that you can control.
- Talk about your worries with someone you trust.
- Write your feelings down in a journal, which may help you let them go.
- Consider an online or in-person support group, to talk with others who are coping with similar experiences.
- Volunteer or connect with social groups — contributing to and being with others may help take your mind off your worries.
- Try stress management tools, such as meditation, prayer and regular exercise.
As you recover from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma treatment and transition back to your routine, it may take some time to find your new sense of normal. Take good care of and be patient with yourself. If anxiety makes daily life difficult or you feel emotionally overwhelmed after treatment — for example, you have thoughts or feelings of anxiety that won't go away — tell your doctor. He or she may be able to connect you with a support group or other support services, offer you treatment choices for specific concerns, or refer to you a mental health professional.
June 26, 2018
See more In-depth
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Live well after cancer treatment. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Facing forward: Life after cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/facing-forward/AllPages. Accessed May 29, 2018.
- Jones WC, et al. Understanding distress in post-treatment adult leukemia and lymphoma survivors: A lifespan perspective. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology. 2015;33:142. https://doi.org/10.1080/07347332.2014.1002658. Accessed June 3, 2018.
- A new normal. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/survivorship/new-normal. Accessed June 3, 2018.