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For Any Cancer Diagnosis

  • Q.

    Are there programs that can help me feel better about myself? I'm 29, recently finished chemo and radiation and am feeling blah. Anything I can join?

    A.

    Having cancer in your 20s or 30s can be an overwhelming experience, particularly once treatment is over. Adjusting to the “new normal” can be especially difficult. Connecting with others your age who have also faced cancer and can relate to those days of just feeling “blah,” can be very helpful in normalizing your experience.

    There are several organizations that offer support services to help meet the needs of people coping with cancer in their 20s and 30s. These organizations can help you feel connected and secure in the idea that you are NOT alone!

    The following organizations offer retreats and other camp experiences for young adults with cancer and post treatment survivors:

    As a post-treatment survivor, you’ll find helpful information in our booklet, After Treatment Ends: Tools for the Adult Cancer Survivor. All of our post-treatment information and support services can be found on our website. You may also call CancerCare and speak with an oncology social worker who can provide you with support and search for additional resources.

  • Q.

    I am 19 and my mother was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. She has had an operation and been through chemotherapy treatment and is technically 'cancer free' now, however we have been told she has a very slim chance of living past 5 years. My mother has completely changed, and I don't know how to talk to her as she seems like a completely different person since chemo. Is this normal?

    A.

    Undergoing treatment for any type of cancer is an intense experience, not only on an emotional level, but spiritually and physically as well. Often, those that have completed cancer treatment face a new type of difficulty; they must now acknowledge that their life is forever changed. They must deal with a new reality as they shift focus from coping with treatment to adjusting to their “new normal”. I use the term “new normal” because whatever was ‘normal’ for your mother before her diagnosis no longer rings true to her.

    It is possible that your mother seems “like a completely different person” since her treatment because she must deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity that can persist following the completion of treatment. Although she may be “cancer free”, she may feel that her life is limited by the five year prognosis which has made her feel vulnerable and afraid. Many emotional challenges arise after treatment because people have focused all of their time and energy on physically fighting their diagnosis; they have neglected the emotional aspects in the process.

    Encouraging her to maintain healthy, supportive relationships with those most significant to her is a crucial part of the healing process. You have to ask yourself, “How has my mother changed and is there is different way I can try talking to her?” She might feel alone in her experience and need your support more now than ever before. Does she have emotional support or is she speaking to a therapist or counselor? Anxiety and depression are common in those who are going through or have completed treatment for cancer. It is important to recognize any red flags for these disorders in order to gain the necessary support.

    It is also good to be aware of the different types of support available:

    • Professional support provides you with information, resources and counseling
    • Peer-to-peer support reduces your sense of isolation and helps you connect with others who share similar concerns (e.g., Cancer Hope Network)

    To access these types of support, speak with an oncology social worker or join a post-treatment support group at CancerCare. A social worker can also help you identify local support services; contact our Hopeline at 800-813-HOPE to speak to an oncology social worker for more information.

  • Q.

    I am 28 years old and it seems like I'm the only one my age with cancer. Is there anyone else like me out there?

    A.

    Hearing that you have been diagnosed with cancer as a young adult can be overwhelming and isolating, however you are not alone in this. The answer to your question is yes, there are other people out there like you. There are several organizations that can help you connect with other people your age who have been diagnosed with cancer. At CancerCare, we offer services for young adults who have been diagnosed with cancer through individual counseling, either face-to-face or by phone. We also offer a Young Adult Patient Support Group for anyone between the ages of 20 to 39 who is located in the New York City area.

    These organizations specialize in providing support and services to young adults with cancer and might be helpful as well:

  • Q.

    My 24-year-old son was recently diagnosed with cancer and I think it would be a good idea for him to join a support group. How do I convince him?

    A.

    As a caregiver, you may feel that your son should join a support group to help him navigate the challenges he may face in regards to his diagnosis and treatment. The difficult part of all of this is that your son must be able to make that decision on his own. As a young adult facing cancer, he may need to understand what his cancer diagnosis and treatment will look like before he is able to give and get support from a group. Managing doctor’s appointments and scheduling treatments can be taxing, however addressing the benefits he may find in a support group is the first step in educating him about how a support group can help.

    Support groups can offer a network of comfort and encouragement, a place of unbiased support and an environment that a young adult does not have to explain what he or she is going through because the other group members will understand. CancerCare offers a face-to-face Young Adult Patient Support Group for anyone located in the New York City area. In addition, we offer several patient online support groups. Your son may also want to reach out to Stupid Cancer, an organization that addresses several young adult cancer issues through advocacy, support and more.

    As a caregiver, you may want to look into services for yourself. You can contact CancerCare’s Hopeline at 800-813-HOPE (4673) to learn more about our services for caregivers. In addition, you may find some of our publications helpful in navigating your new role as a caregiver.

  • Q.

    I'm a kindergarten teacher and one of my students is going through a rough time because his mom has cancer and is undergoing treatments. Since she is not well, she does not have a ton of energy to play with him. We are concerned that over the summer he will go backwards by not socializing with other children. Any suggestions for free to cheap summer camp options for him? Or other resources? He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

    A.

    Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and difficult, especially as a young adult caring for a young child. It seems that your student’s mother may be in need of support for herself so that she can better understand the impact of her diagnosis and how it affects her son. We provide a publication to help parents talk to their children about cancer. You may want to provide your student’s mother with this publication, in addition to CancerCare’s information. CancerCare provides free counseling services and financial assistance for cancer patients; you can reach us at 800-813-HOPE (4673) to speak directly with an oncology social worker about our services and how to get involved. We can help young adult patients to better understand what they are going through and assist in cope with the emotional and physical changes someone may experience during treatment. Receiving a cancer diagnosis as a young adult presents several challenges and can feel isolating. Let your student’s mother know that there are support options available for her and that she is not alone.

    We also offer in-office counseling services for children as young as 5 years old. You may want to speak to your student’s mother to see if she wants to reach out for support for her son. Our children’s program, CancerCare for Kids, may be able to help your student understand his mother’s diagnosis and talk about how her cancer diagnosis has impacted him.

    Additional resources include:

    • Camp Good Days, located in upstate New York, provides free summer camp options for any child who has been affected by cancer.
    • KidsKonnected is another great resource for children that have a parent with cancer to help educate, support and inform children about their parent’s cancer.
  • Q.

    My mother recently passed away from cancer and people are telling me to join a group. I'm not sure what type, but thought I'd ask to see what is out there. I’m 37. Thanks!

    A.

    The death of a loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences in life. Bereavement can be even harder if you are a young adult (21 to 39 years old). It can make you feel very alone because you might find that none of your peers have gone through anything similar and won’t understand or know what to say. Being with others who have similar experiences and who do understand what you are going through can be vital at this time.

    Bereavement support groups can decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness and provide a safe space to process feelings of grief and loss. Group members not only support each other by validating and normalizing their experiences and emotions but they can learn coping skills from each other. The opportunity to share your narrative and be able to grieve openly helps to start the journey to recover.

    However, everyone grieves differently and therefore there is not one way to cope with the death of a loved one. Support groups can be very helpful, but might not speak to everyone. If this does not work for you, individual bereavement counseling could be more appropriate during this time.

    There are no rules in the recovery of bereavement and only you will know what works for you.

    Support groups are available at CancerCare and are led by oncology social workers. View CancerCare’s support groups, which include a Young Adults Who Have Lost a Loved One Online Support Group.

    CancerCare also offers publications on bereavement.

    And finally, here is additional information about coping with loss.

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