Dealing with people: Tips for teens with cancer

Having cancer in your teenage years can be tough in many different ways. Below, you will find some tips regarding the other people in your life and your interactions with them.


Dealing with parents

Compared to young children, teens tend to be pretty independent in many ways, as they are gradually transitioning from childhood to adulthood. If you get cancer in your teens, this can complicate the independization process because you will most likely become more dependant on your parent(s) or guardian(s) again in big and small ways.

Tip: Try to keep an open and honest conversation going with the adults about how they can support you without making you feel like a 7-year-old again.

Tip: The adults might become overprotective. Understanding that this is a natural reaction that stems from them worrying about your health can help make it a bit less annoying. Once again, being honest about your feelings is recommended. Explain to them that you understand that they worry, but you need to be allowed to experience your teens – not just the home and the hospital bed.

Tip: Focus on seeing this as a limit part of your life. Yes, you have become more dependant on your parents for now. Hopefully, you will come out on the other side of the cancer treatment with many healthy years ahead of you where you will enjoy your independency.

Dealing with other family members

Ask your parents to do this. Seriously. You are the one who is ill and you need to focus your energy on getting better. You shouldn’t have to micromanage grandma’s anxiety or feel that you are the one who must hold up your sibblings.

Dealing with friends

Your friends probably want to help and support you, but might be insecure about how to do it best. Some people (including adults) become so afraid about saying or doing something wrong that they end up saying and doing nothing at all.

They might be thinking things such as:

  • Does my friend want to talk about the cancer, or do they prefer me to talk about other things to prodive some distraction?
  • Does my friend want any practical help, or would they find that condescending somehow?
  • Will my friend be annoyed if I vent about my own problems?
  • I’m really afraid of my friend dying – can I talk to them about that?
  • We normally joke around about everything – am I allowed to continue doing that? Can I make jokes about cancer? About their cancer?

Try to be open with your friends about your needs and wishes, to make it easier for them to support you the way you want to be supported.

If you don’t want to talk about your cancer treatment, diagnosis, prognosis, etctera with your friend, tell them instead of trying to “hint”.

If you want to do certain things, or not do certain activities, be open about it. This is also true for things that you want to do but shouldn’t for medical reasons. If you shouldn’t be in crowds because your are immunocompromised, let your friend know instead of just always saying no everytime when she invites you to the mall / the ball game / go dancing.

Ask for counceling

The hospital where you are being treated for your cancer probably have resources available to help you deal with your situation from an emotional perspective. It can really help to talk to a professional councelor, and one of the things that you can bring up in your talks is how to deal with your near and dear ones during this difficult period.

If hospital counceling is not possible, check if your school have any similar resources available for you.

This article was last updated on: November 18, 2019