6 Things Young Adult Australian Cancer Survivors Want You To Know

September 27th, 2017 |

by YouCanHQ | Supporter: All Cancers   

If you're reading this right now, it’s likely that you or someone close to you has heard the words "You have cancer." It’s daunting but you should know many a young person has walked the road you are about to start down -- and they've left you a few useful tips to help guide your way. This is what adolescent and young adult Australian cancer survivors want you to know about what's going to happen now that you've been diagnosed.

1. Being a young adult with cancer is much different than being a paediatric or adult patient.

The Cloud:

Before cancer, you were in the middle of the most formative years of your life , just beginning to understand what it means to be independent. You won't want the hospital staff to baby you like they do for paediatric patients, nor will you want it be assumed that you don't need any support as all, as is common with many adult patients. Sometimes you'll just need a shoulder to rest your head on without a word, and other times you'll bite someone's head off for asking the wrong question.

The Silver Lining:

Having a place like a You Can Centre gives you the ability to choose both the privacy and the attention that you need with spaces just for you and staff that speaks to your unique needs. Also, literally just seeing other people your age walking around snapping Instagram stories and listening to music in the lounge will let you actually believe the doctors who say you'll be alright. It gives you the tangible evidence you need to know you're not alone.

2. 'Bouncing back' is not as easy as you may think

The Cloud:

Some people feel as though young adults don't have the pressures of "normal" adult life, so it's easier for us to to bounce back. False. Life still goes on while we are sick, and between everything that we missed both in education and in our social lives,the amount of 'catching up' we have to do is overwhelming. It's hard to go right back into the life we had before cancer.

The Silver Lining:

But, remember, you are fighting for your life. So please, be kind to yourself and stay focused on your personal goals. Celebrate your personal successes and don't let yourself get distracted by anyone else's. Give yourself a break every once in awhile -- mate, you're fighting cancer, and you get to do that in your own time, no one else's.

3. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is painful

The Cloud:

We often have to watch our friends engage in the highlights of their teenage years as we lay in a hospital bed, or when we are too fatigued to leave home. It's hard - very hard - not to overthink about how much we may be missing out on, and wondering if anyone realizes that we aren't there.

The Silver Lining:

But while you're in that hospital or lying on your bed, consider this: a cancer diagnosis at a time when you're developing your world view puts a lot in perspective. It also puts you into this mindset that you'd better be here for a good reason if you're being thrown into the fire this early on. If you miss out on a few things, that's ok. Put your energy into making yourself strong mentally and emotionally so that you can kick cancer's ass and get off the bench as soon as you can.

4. Cancer doesn't end when treatment does

The Cloud:

The emotional side effects of a cancer diagnosis extend far beyond the time spent in the cancer centre. Often, it isn't until after treatment ends - also known as that time when you'll be forced back into the real world without any structure to follow - that the real emotional rollercoaster will begin.

Two psychosocial issues you'll want to keep a close eye on when you're out: depression and anxiety. Just because you're having symptoms of an illness that don't include a fever or a runny nose don't mean that they aren't any less real medical issues that need to be medically treated.

The Silver Lining:

Your experience with cancer will give you a leg up in knowing that an earlier diagnosis equals better chances for recovery and fewer long-term side effects. Keep a tight relationship with your care team when you leave so that you can reach out to them if you start to feel really down and take strong comfort knowing that you are definitely not the only one going through it.

5. Please don't be scared to talk about cancer

The Cloud:

It might be hard to figure out what to say and it could feel nearly impossible for even your closest friends to relate unless they happen to have a personal experience with cancer. But don’t let any of that cause you to ignore the topic. It's okay to ask the tough, or awkward questions -- anything that helps you feel that other people care.

The Silver Lining:

Sympathy is what you'll get from your friends, family and peers that emotionally support you but can't actually relate on a personal level, but empathy is what you'll find through the You Can network, and it's an essential ingredient to a successful recovery. There is a deep level of support and understanding you can only get from someone who can factually say "Me, too." When you want to talk about those really deep, scary topics that make you feel alone, you now have a network of people who can echo your thoughts back and make you feel like you've really been heard.

6. You are not alone!

The Cloud:

      Being diagnosed with cancer at a young age is incredibly isolating at times and you may feel like you are alienated from those around you.

The Silver Lining:

Despite what reality seems to be telling you, you are not an alien, nor are you alone! There are others going through a similar experience to you and can truly understand the physical, social and emotional toll a cancer diagnosis brings.

Think about all the people out there who will never be able to high-five their buddy because you both finished chemo that week, or who won't get to watch a sick stranger turn into an impossibly strong version of themselves, or meet people you are convinced will change the world forever because they've defeated one of the world's oldest and most mysterious autoimmune diseases?

So yeah, getting cancer when you're in the awkward metamorphosing phase between crying baby and bill-paying adult feels especially cruel. But you'll be a lot stronger, definitely a little wiser, and probably a lot more grateful for literally just being alive than some people will ever be. There's a comfort in knowing there are other people out there who can look you in the eyes and say "I know exactly what you're going through, and you're going to be alright."

So hang in there, friend. And when you've gotten past the terrifying omg-I-actually-have-cancer part (and you will), you'll be able to hold a hand out to the person whose cancer journey is just starting. You got this.

What else do you want the world to know about young adult cancer? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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YouCanHQ's picture

We’re the people working behind the scenes to make You Can Connect the best it can be for you. We thought we’d make our own profile to introduce ourselves in case you haven’t heard of You Can. Back in 2010, Sony Foundation Australia launched You Can to address a gap in the medical system to support adolescent and young adults with cancer in Australia. We raise funds and build You Can youth cancer centres across the country to provide a space in hospitals that is just for young people to ensure care and support is tailored towards YOU, not children, and not old people, YOU. Feel free to drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.