Helping Cancer Survivors Rebuild Their Lives after Treatment

Resources for Life After Cancer

For people with cancer, completing treatment is a huge milestone. For many, it means that it’s time to resume regular activities and go back to the lives they had before cancer.

But for others, completing treatment can lead to stress and anxiety about a wide range of psychological issues, as well as difficulty coping with the physical aftereffects related to cancer and its treatment. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Resources for Life After Cancer (RLAC) program was created to support cancer survivors in dealing with these difficulties.

“When patients are undergoing cancer treatment, they’re really focused on managing the issues surrounding that treatment,” says Penny Damaskos, PhD, Clinical Supervisor and Program Coordinator for RLAC. “Once they finish, a lot of other issues come up. Who am I after my cancer diagnosis, and who do I want to be? What if my cancer comes back?”

“Even wonderful events like birthdays can trigger anxiety because patients believe when they get older, they’re getting closer to a cancer recurrence,” Dr. Damaskos adds.

Addressing an Important Need

Resources for Life After Cancer, which was originally called the Post-Treatment Resources Program, was established in 1988 because Memorial Sloan Kettering psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers saw a need to address the anxiety and other issues that patients cope with after their treatment is finished. The program is now a key component of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Survivorship Initiative.

“For many years, we didn’t realize that finishing treatment and being told they didn’t need to come back for several months struck terror in many patients,” Dr. Damaskos says. “These are people who have had every nook and cranny examined for months and months, sometimes weekly or even more often, and now they are told they can go on their own and everything is fine.”

Back to top

A Range of Programs and Services

An important part of RLAC’s activities are educational programs that address the practical, physical, and psychological issues surrounding cancer survivorship.

“Practical issues include things like dating and finding a job or housing after being treated for cancer,” Dr. Damaskos explains. “Physical issues may include topics like sleeping, exercise, nutrition, and sexual dysfunction. Psychological issues include topics such as coping with body image and finding deeper meaning in receiving a cancer diagnosis. We try to balance all of these so that we offer something for everyone.”

In addition to educational programs, RLAC hosts regular support groups for particular populations, such as young adults, men, women, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. There are also support groups for survivors of specific cancers, including bladder, esophageal, colorectal, and brain.

These support groups, like the educational programs, are open to all cancer survivors, whether they were treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering or another center.

“We try to create many points of entry for people to participate. Many people start by coming to larger, informational groups, but after that they may be more likely to feel comfortable attending a support group,” Dr. Damaskos says.

For Memorial Sloan Kettering patients and their family members, RLAC also offers free individual counseling for a limited time after treatment. “We are only able to offer this to our own patients, because of issues that may come up requiring access to the patient’s medical records,” Dr. Damaskos explains.

Most RLAC events are held at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s main campus in New York City, but some groups meet at the regional sites. RLAC also coordinates topics with Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Virtual Programs, which offer live seminars and support groups conducted online and over the phone.

Explore our most popular seminars for cancer survivors and watch them online.

Back to top


Commenting is disabled for this blog post.

Thank you to all who work @ SK to make a difference in each patient's life! You give hope everyday to my brother-n-law, W. Soileau & his family because of the miraculous work being accomplished at the center! Many, many thanks to each doctor & staff member because without you the mission of the center could not be completed! With sincere gratitude, K Soileau & Family


my grandson was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 16. He lives with me. He suffers from no short term memory, and brittle bones. He sleeps most of the day, and refuses to take a shower, brush his teeth, and take care of himself. He has no friends, I worry about his well being. Dont know what to do to help him, if you can give any advise it would be appreciated.

Sue, we are sorry to hear that your grandson is having these troubles. Unfortunately we are not able to provide medical advice on our blog. We recommend that you speak with your grandson’s healthcare provider about these issues. Thank you for your comment.

in 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 3A lung. Dr. Rick was my surgeon. I lost my whole right lung, and it was a rough time recovering. Dr. Rizk and his entire staff were amazing. Today, I am a healthy, happy and still cancer free patient, who owes so much to Dr. Rizk. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dear Eileen, we are glad to know that you felt well-cared for by Dr. Rizk and his team. Thank you for sharing your experience on our blog!