Tahlequah Daily Press

October 29, 2013

Support systems key to getting back on track after treatment

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — When Cherrl Springer was diagnosed with breast and lung cancer two years ago, she had no family support, no friends – “no one” – because of a marriage gone sour.

“I was alone,” Springer said. “I lost all of my hair, which was what I loved most about myself at that time. I had two small kids, 3 and 6 at the time. They suffered the most, I do believe.”

Springer said her children kept her going as she battled the elements associated with her cancer diagnosis.

“I underwent 44 units of chemo and radiation treatments; my kids went with me every time,” said Springer.

Pain after her treatments “was the worst.”

“I couldn’t take the medications they gave me for pain because I had to be alert for my kids,” said Springer. “See, my key to remission here was my kids. If it wasn’t for them, I would have probably given up and died from cancer and no will to fight, but my kids gave me that strength, that inner fight that I needed to pull through.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, life after cancer treatment may lead to new eating habits, new activities or hobbies, and myriad changes.

Chemotherapy is the use of strong medicines to treat cancer, while radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation can also damage normal cells, leading to various side effects.

“Coping with these issues can be a challenge,” the NCI says in its publication “Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment.”

“Yet many say that getting involved in decisions about their medical care and lifestyle was a good way for them to regain some of the control they felt they lost during cancer treatment. Research has shown that people who feel more in control feel and function better than those who do not.”

When treatments stop, survivors should continue to get follow-up medical care. Ask important questions about overcoming fatigue, memory or concentration changes, pain, or other issues that might arise.

And don’t overlook the emotional changes.

“Each person’s experience with cancer is different, and the feels, emotions, and fears that you have are unique,” the NCI says. “Whatever you decide, it’s important to do what’s right for you and try not to compare yourself with others.”

Springer is now in remission and has regained her strength. Her hair is growing back, and her self-confidence is returning. She also has family and friends at her side.

“Cancer is a monster, but it gave me a moral story to share with others and the know-how to help another person going through the same thing as I did. I thank my kids most for my survival,” said Springer. “I am a survivor.”

For more tips on getting life back on track after chemo or radiation treatments, log on to www.cancer.gov and look for links under the “cancer topics” category.