Cancer is a scary diagnosis for anyone, and adolescents and young adults can have an especially hard time dealing with the news that a parent is sick. But you are far from alone. About 2.5 million teens live with a parent who is fighting or survived cancer.
While help and support is always within reach, there will undoubtedly be difficult days. You may ask yourself questions like: Will my mom or dad be ok? How will my family life change? How do I cope? If you feel overwhelmed with fear and worry, try to focus on these facts:
While you navigate this cancer journey with your parent, it can help to plan and prepare for some of the challenges that lie ahead. Knowing what to expect can help you feel more in control and less worried about change.
What You Might Experience:
While your parent gets treatment, you might notice that they have less energy than usual. They may be tired, and may not feel well. You might see them lose their hair. They might gain or lose weight. These are all common things that can happen from cancer treatment. Seeing your parent get sick can be scary. But remember, many people get cancer, have treatment, and do well. Share your concerns and ask questions. Open and honest communication is the best way to handle uncertainty.
What You Can Do to Help:
Spend time with your parent. Watch movies together, share a hug and say I love you often. Lend a hand when you can with cleaning or preparing meals. Stay positive and upbeat but don’t hide your feelings. It’s ok to share your thoughts and concerns. You are all under stress and need each other for support. You may assume responsibilities that normally fall to the parents, but only take on what you can handle.
Take Care of Yourself:
While you help care for your parent, remember to take care of yourself, too. Keep up your routine as much as you can, including school, friends, and activities you enjoy. You may feel funny going about your life and having fun when your parent is home sick or in the hospital. But living your life does not mean you don’t care. You can still be concerned about your parent while staying connected with friends and activities. It’s common to have mixed emotions and an open line of communication with your parent is always the best way to cope.
It can help to talk with someone outside of your family. Look for local support groups in your community or utilize useful web resources like Kids Konnected. They provide an online community of peers living with a parent who has cancer. You can always reach out to your parent’s care team and ask to speak with someone from the RPCI Psychosocial Oncology department.