Beginning to recover

After cancer treatment you may find you need time to regain and rebuild your physical and emotional health. We have advice to help you with your recovery.

About recovery after treatment

Although you may feel ready to get on with life after treatment, it is common to have mixed feelings. You may have days when you feel anxious or uncertain about the future. Or you may feel less positive about your health. You might also find it difficult adjusting to not seeing your cancer team as often.

The time after treatment is a period of change. You are finding out what is now normal for you. Some people call this their ‘new normal’. You need time to find out and adjust to what this means for you.

You may be thinking about getting back to the things you did before treatment. For example:

  • going back to work or education
  • doing hobbies or exercise again

Try not to expect too much of yourself too soon. Recovery is a gradual process. Some days you may feel better than others. You will need time to build up your physical strength. You will also have to process what you have been through. Sometimes emotional recovery can take longer than physical recovery. But everything should improve with time and the right support.

See also

Self-management

Self-management means taking an active role in your own care. This may help you feel more in control of what is happening to you. You may already be doing some of the things we mention here, and feel you are as involved as you want to be.

When self-managing, you work with your cancer team to improve your health and well-being. This means learning more about your condition and how it affects your life. It is important to know when you need support or information, and who or where to get it from. You need to be able to plan ahead and set goals for the future.

Your key worker can provide a lot of information. They can help you find the best people to talk to when you need support or advice.

Your healthcare team can help you with self-management. They may know about training courses to show you how to manage your health better. These are usually free.

We also have courses and workshops that can support you. HOPE (Helping to Overcome Problems Effectively) is a free short course on coping with a cancer diagnosis. We also offer a range of online courses.

Your local Macmillan information and support centre can tell you if there are any local courses.

Setting goals

How long it takes to get back to doing everyday things usually depends on:

  • the type of cancer
  • your treatment
  • your general health.

Try not to rush things. Think about your recovery as a set of small, achievable goals that you can work towards. For example, this could be going for a walk when you feel able or eating healthily most days. You can be flexible with yourself.

As you achieve a goal, your confidence will grow. Recognise every success, no matter how small. You might also want to reward yourself for your hard work.

You may need to push yourself to do things you feel less confident about. Start with simple things. Over time, you will get back into the routine of everyday life. As time passes, other things will start taking over and cancer will become less of a focus for you. 

Changes to how you view your life

Your cancer experience may change your outlook on life. You may find you think about things differently now. You might think about what is important to you and change your priorities. You may discover new interests or make certain lifestyle changes. This could be to improve your well-being or to find ways of reducing stress.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our after treatment information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at  cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Society for Medical Oncology: Supporting self-management of patients and family members. 2019. 

    Macmillan Cancer Support. Providing personalised care for people living with cancer: a guide for professionals providing holistic needs assessments, care and support planning. 2019. 

    Maher, J et al. Implementation of nationwide cancer survivorship plans: Experience from the UK. Journal of Cancer Policy. 2018. Vol 15, pp 76-81.       


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.