Months of cancer treatments have gone by and you finally hear the phrase you’ve been longing to hear. “Your cancer is gone.” But now what? There are often many uncertainties that come with life after cancer.
“When it comes to survivorship, everyone is different. Typically we tell our patients that it takes about a year for life to begin to return to normal,” said Mari Damhoff, oncology nurse navigator with the Willmar Regional Cancer Center. “We understand that ‘normal’ may not mean the lives they had before their diagnosis. We’re here for our patients to help them transition back to their everyday lives, to help them establish a new sense of normalcy whatever that may be for them.”
Mari helps cancer patients navigate life after cancer, and she’s played an integral role in helping to develop a new survivorship program at the WRCC.
“Our goal is to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. This survivorship program can help our patients do that by empowering them to take care of their health,” said Mari.
Every patient has their own survivorship care plan that includes special screenings, tests and check-ups. Many times cancer patients have long-lasting side effects, either physically or psychologically, from their cancer treatment. Their oncology healthcare provider gives them the tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle—and that includes eating a healthy diet and incorporating exercise into their routine, stress management or even kicking unhealthy habits like smoking to the curb.
Counseling is often recommended for patients and is revisited at each check-up. Psychologist with special training are available to help patients who may have dealt with a difficult diagnosis.
The WRCC also offers a support group for survivors and their families—no matter what kind of cancer a patient may have had. A second support groups is in the works. Many of the survivors in the first group are long-term survivors; the new group will be for those in their earlier years of survivorship.
“Cancer is overwhelming. Survivorship can be too in its own way. It’s nice for our survivors, caregivers and their
families to have someone to talk to other than their oncologist or cancer care team—to talk to other survivors who have been where they are right now,” said Mari.
“We walk with our patients on one of the most difficult journeys they may ever face. As they reach survivorship, we continue to walk with them, letting go a little more as they get to the point that they don’t need us by their side anymore.”
“We are always looking at new resources to add to our survivorship program to make the lives of our survivors just a little bit easier. We walk with our patients on one of the most difficult journeys they may ever face. As they reach survivorship, we continue to walk with them, letting go a little more as they get to the point that they don’t need us by their side anymore. We love it when our survivors pop in just to visit. It is days like those that we know we really made a difference in someone’s life.”