Life after cancer can be a difficult thing to adjust to — cancer does not stop affecting you after it’s been cut out. Cancer can continue to have a profound impact on your life for many years, and it’s important to prioritize your mental wellness every step of the way.
Coping with physical side effects can be difficult, especially if there has been amputation. Rehabilitation can help you learn how to live your “new normal”. Soft tissue sarcoma can also affect body image and self-esteem, due to side effects of cancer treatment. These may include scars and skin changes, hair loss, limb loss, and changes in how your body moves and works. Though some changes are temporary, others can persist for a long time and may be permanent. Amputation can be particularly distressing, as it often takes time to grieve the loss of function & mobility and for the person to start coping with the emotional and practical problems of an amputation.
In the event of an amputation, phantom limb pain can be a difficult side effect to deal with. It occurs because nerves are cut and damaged during surgery, which may cause the body to send abnormal nerve impulses. Phantom limb pain usually happens 1 to 4 weeks after surgery and lessens during the first year. For some people, phantom limb pain can become a long-term problem, and be triggered by stress or fatigue. Pain specialists can help treat long-term phantom pain.
Fear of recurrence is another factor which can impact mental wellness. Some types of soft tissue sarcoma are more likely to recur, and this can be a very stressful possibility to live with. By being vigilant about signs and symptoms, you can try to catch the cancer recurrence as soon as possible. You can also use your follow-up visits to discuss your concerns and ask questions. Other strategies that may be helpful include talking to a counselor, joining a support group, and finding ways to cope, such as meditation and physical activity.
Emotional side effects can include sadness, anxiety, anger, and stress. You are encouraged to share these feelings with a member of your healthcare team, who may be able to point you in the right direction if you need more specialized professional help.
Information taken from Canadian Cancer Society.