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When Your Parent Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 04/12/2011

What your parent may be feeling

Knowing what your parent may be feeling could help you figure out how to help, or at least to understand where he or she is coming from. You may be surprised to learn that they are feeling a lot of the same things you are:

  • Sad or depressed. People with cancer sometimes can’t do things they used to do. They may miss these activities and their friends. Feeling sad or down can range from a mild case of the blues to depression, which a doctor can treat.
  • Afraid. Your parent may be afraid of how cancer will change his or her life and the lives of family members. He or she may be scared about treatment. Your parent may even be scared that he or she will die.
  • Anxious. Your parent may be worried about a lot of things. Your mom or dad may feel stressed about going to work or paying the bills. Or he or she may be concerned about looking different because of treatment. And your mom or dad is probably very concerned about how you are doing. All these worries may upset your parent.
  • Angry. Cancer treatment and its side effects can be difficult to go through. Anger sometimes comes from feelings that are hard to show, such as fear or frustration. Chances are your parent is angry at the disease, not at you.
  • Lonely. People with cancer often feel lonely or distant from others. They may find that their friends have a hard time dealing with their cancer and may not visit. They may be too sick to take part in activities they used to enjoy. They may feel that no one understands what they're going through.
  • Hopeful. There are many reasons for your parent to feel hopeful. Millions of people who have had cancer are alive today. People with cancer can lead active lives, even during treatment. Your parent's chances of surviving cancer are better today than ever before.

All these feelings are normal for people living with cancer. You might want to share this list with your mom or dad.

"My mom lost all her hair after chemo. She started wearing hats. People stared at us. I felt really bad that I was embarrassed to be with her. Then my mom just came out and asked me what I was thinking. When I told her, she said she wasn't crazy about the new bald look either, but that she was glad to be alive. Now I see my mom first as one very brave woman. I don't care who stares."
- Ming, age 16
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Theodore Roosevelt