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Sun 01 Nov 2020

Getting your confidence back after cancer

After overcoming bone cancer at the age of 15, Allie knew that the end of treatment could be a difficult time for a lot of cancer patients and wanted to offer support for those finding it tough to get back into ‘normal’ life.

Through her use of confidence-building techniques, Allie helps to make those who have suffered from serious or chronic illness feel empowered, and able to write the next chapter of their life. You can find out more on her website.

When your cancer treatment ends, you might find that getting back to your ‘normal’ life is a bit tougher than you thought it would be. Cancer can be a real life-changing experience and the expectation of stepping back into your old life sometimes doesn’t live up to the reality.

Personally, I struggled with my confidence when I finished treatment at 15. I just wanted to be a normal teenager again but my self-esteem had taken a hit and I had to get used to the new me who saw things from a completely different perspective.

If you’re struggling with your self-confidence after cancer, here are four tips to help you get back on track:

Get into a healthy mindset

Your mindset is crucial at a time like this.

If you get stuck in a fixed mindset where you believe everything is happening to you, and you have no say in it, you won’t be able to take control of your future. But a growth mindset opens more opportunities up to you and helps you to see that your cancer experience doesn’t need to define you - it’s just one chapter in your story.

Whenever you find yourself stuck in a negative mindset, thinking you can’t do something, try to add the word ‘yet’ on to that sentence - ‘I can’t do this YET.’ That’s just one simple trick but it’s so useful in helping you be more open about your future, instead of shutting doors around you.

Learn to love your body again

This one is a biggie, especially with social media giving us the ability to compare ourselves with every other human in the world at any given time.

You might have conflicting feelings about your body since you were diagnosed, ranging from frustration that your body has changed to complete gratitude that it has helped you to recover.

Take small steps to start loving yourself again. I always tell my clients to buy a lovely, rich moisturiser and take time massaging it into their skin - it might sound silly but it really helps you to connect with your body and get to know yourself again.

You can also use a body scanning meditation which will help you to relax and become more aware of your physical self.

Spend time getting to know the new you

After all the constant hospital appointments and seeing friends, family, doctors and nurses day in, day out, life after cancer can seem a bit lonely in comparison. But this is vital time that you can use to get to know the new you - that’s the you who has overcome cancer and is now starting a whole new chapter.

Too often, we spend time keeping busy so we don’t have to confront what’s really going on - I’m just as guilty as the next person - but spending time alone can help you to deal with what’s going on in your head.

Writing down all your thoughts can help you to work through how you’re feeling about everything too. Try taking five minutes each evening to note down how your day has gone and what you’re looking forward to tomorrow.

Take baby steps back into work

If you rush back into work or socialising with your pals, you might end up feeling overwhelmed. Then the overwhelm can end up making you feel discouraged and you end up hiding away from the world again.

Take small steps to get back into work and talk to your HR department about how you can do this. You might start by coming into work for an informal catch-up meeting, then do some work from home. Once you’ve built up the courage (and energy!) you need to go back into the office, you might work a few days at a time, rather than a full week. Setting small achievable goals for yourself will make you feel more motivated and help you to work towards the bigger goal of returning to work full time.

And although it might be tempting, don’t fill up your calendar with plans to meet friends. You might still be tired from the treatment you’ve had so try to take it easy and space things out, giving you time to relax and recover.

You’ve got this.

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free cancer Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010