You've just learned that your parent has cancer
You’ve just learned that one of the most important people in your life has cancer. Do you feel shocked, numb, angry, or afraid? Do you feel like life is unfair? One thing is certain—you don’t feel good.
"I knew something was wrong the minute I walked in the kitchen. My mom was so quiet. Then Mom told me she has cancer. I felt like I was going to faint. I could barely hold the te ars back. I felt so scared. I ran to my room and just sat on the bed for the longest time . I called my best friend and kind of lost it"
- Sarah, age 16
For now, try to focus on these facts:
- Many people survive cancer. There are about 12 million cancer survivors living in the U.S. today. That’s because scientists are discovering new and better ways to find and treat cancer. During this really tough time, it will help you to have hope.
- You’re not alone. Right now it might seem that no one else in the world feels the way you do. In a way you’re right. No one can feel exactly like you do. But it might help to know that many teens have a parent who has cancer. Talking to others may help you sort out your feelings. Remember, you are not alone.
- You’re not to blame. Cancer is a disease with various causes, many of which doctors don’t fully understand. None of these causes has anything to do with what you’ve done, thought, or said.
- Balance is important. Many teens feel like their parent’s cancer is always on their mind. Others try to avoid it. Try to strike a balance. You can be concerned about your parent and still stay connected with people and activities that you care about.
- Knowledge is power. It can help to learn more about cancer and cancer treatments. Sometimes what you imagine is actually worse than the reality.
"I used to be a real easygoing, happy person. Since my dad got cancer I started blowing up over little things. My counselor at school got me in a group of kids who have a mom or dad with cancer. Meeting with kids who are going through the same thing helps a lot."
- Aaron, age 14
As you deal with your parent’s cancer, you’ll probably feel all kinds of things. Many other teens who have a parent with cancer have felt the same way you do now. Some of these emotions are listed below. Think about people you can talk with about your feelings.
"However long the night, the dawn will break."
- African Proverb
Check off the feelings you have:
What you're feeling is normal
There is no one "right" way to feel. And you’re not alone—many other teens in your situation have felt the same way. Some have said that having a parent with cancer changes the way they look at things in life. Some even said that it made them stronger.
Dealing with your feelings
A lot of people are uncomfortable sharing their feelings. They ignore them and hope they'll go away. Other people choose to act cheerful when they're really not. They think that by acting upbeat they won’t feel sad or angry anymore. This may help for a little while, but not over the long run. Actually, holding your feelings inside can keep you from getting the help you need.
Try these tips:
- Talk with family and friends who you feel close to.You owe it to yourself.
- Write down your thoughts in a journal.
- Join a support group to talk with other teens who are facing some of the same things you are. Or meet with a counselor. We’ll learn more about these ideas in Finding support.
It is probably hard to imagine right now, but, if you let yourself, you can grow stronger as a person through this experience.
"Sometimes what helped me the most was to run or kickbox until I was exhausted."
- Jed, age 16
"I just kept telling myself that I was going to let this experience make me - not break me."
- Lydia, age 16
"After Dad got cancer, my big sister always seemed to be making excuses to get out of the house. One day, I just told her off. Instead of getting mad, she started crying. She said she couldn't stand seeing Dad hurting. I told her I felt the same way. Now we talk more and keep each other going. It's good."
- Jamie, age 13
"Experience is what you get by not having it when you need it."