Life after treatment
You may find it helps to try to carry on with life as normally as possible, by staying in contact with friends and keeping up your usual activities. Or you may want to decide on new priorities in your life, like spending more time with family or going on holiday.
For the first few months while your immune system is returning to normal, it helps to try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to avoid possible risks of infection from food. Eat freshly cooked food and avoid reheated food. Make sure that frozen foods are completely defrosted before cooking, and wash salads and fruit thoroughly before eating.
It’s fine to drink a small amount of alcohol, but heavy drinking can slow down your recovery and increase the risk of bleeding (especially if your platelet count is low). Alcohol can also interfere with some of the drugs you may be prescribed.
We have more information about eating well when you have cancer including a video about healthy diet, a slideshow about poor appetite, recipes and more.
To reduce the risk of infection, avoid crowded places such as cinemas, pubs and public transport until your white blood cells are well within the normal range. Your doctor can tell you what your blood count is.
By 3–6 months after your treatment, you should be able to take up a full social life again. However, avoid contact with children who have an infectious disease such as chickenpox or measles. If you’re worried that you’ve come into contact with someone with an infectious disease, contact your doctor or specialist nurse.
Going back to work, school or college
Many people go back to work, college or school while they are on maintenance treatment. If you have a stem cell transplant you may be encouraged by your doctors to wait until your blood count has gone back to normal or almost normal. Ideally, take it gradually by going part-time to begin with. It’s a good idea to discuss with your employer, teacher or tutor a satisfactory way of returning to your work or education in stages.
You might also want to say whether you would like them to talk to your colleagues or fellow students about your illness and treatment before you return. If so, check that you feel comfortable about the way they plan to do this.
Regular gentle exercise (such as walking) is good way to help build up energy levels. Exercise has also been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety.
You’ll have to be careful if your platelets, which help the blood to clot, are low. If you have low numbers of red cells (anaemia), you’ll feel very tired and sometimes breathless Ask your specialist about what kind of exercise is suitable for you when your blood count is still recovering.
Holidays and travel
For the first 3–6 months after treatment, you’ll still have to attend hospital regularly for checkups and may sometimes need transfusions. If you’ve had a stem cell transplant it would be best not to plan any holidays until 6 months after treatment has finished. However if you are having maintenance treatment over a number of years, you may be able to take a holiday during this time. You should discuss holiday plans with your doctors. Remember to ask your doctor for advice on travel and discuss any vaccinations needed.
You’ll usually be advised not to travel abroad in the first year after a transplant unless there’s a nearby cancer treatment centre.