When the people close to you find out you have cancer, they’ll probably feel a lot of the same things you did. They might be confused, shocked, scared, worried, helpless or all of these things. Relationships that have been natural can feel strange and strained. It’s not easy, but you can get through it.
If you get cancer when you’re young, you can suddenly find yourself spending a lot more time with your parents or carers. Losing your independence can be tough for everyone.
It can be frustrating to need emotional support or help with anything from driving to appointments to having a shower. You parents might feel like they know what’s best and start being over-protective of you too. If you feel you’re not being listened to, try to talk calmly about what you’d like. You might ask:
To go to appointments by yourself (or together)
To be involved in decisions about treatment
To keep doing what you enjoy
To know your parents are always a phone call away, rather than always with you
To have space when you need it.
Lots of families find it helps to get outside support. Psychologists, counsellors and your support team all understand what you’re going through and can help.
Teenager Cancer Trust’s information for friends and families might also be handy.
You might find cancer brings you closer to your siblings, but it doesn’t always work like that. There are a lot of reasons your brothers and sisters could start to act differently. They might feel scared, or angry because they need to do more chores, or guilty about having fun while you’re in hospital, or lonely because you’re not around. They might even be worried this is their fault or jealous because you’re getting all the attention.
It can all seem pretty complicated. But the truth is talking helps. Even if you don’t have the kind of relationship where you share emotions, try and be honest about how you’re feeling. It can really help to clear the air.
Having your friends around you during cancer treatment can be a massive source of comfort. But sometimes even the closest friendships can start to feel strained. You might need to take the lead with your friends, because people often stress about how to act.
Let them know they don’t need to walk on eggshells. Talk about what you would like them to do, how they can help, and whether you want to talk about cancer or not.
Ask people to keep calling or messaging and let them know it might take you a while to respond. Let people know how much their friendship means. And try not to worry about sounding like you’re complaining – people know things are tough for you right now.
If you’re feeling grumpy because of your treatment, try not to get angry with your friends. Remember they probably don’t know what to say and aren’t trying to annoy you.
And if you do find friendships drift apart, try not to let it get you down. Friendships change all the time, and what matters most is spending time with people who make you feel good.
Teenage Cancer Trust has more information for friends of people who are living with cancer.
Relationships can be amazing, but they can also involve a lot of hard work. Throw cancer into the mix and things can get even more complicated. You’re both reacting to a really tough situation and probably feeling a lot of the same emotions. Every relationship is different, but here are a few things that often happen:
You get closer
Your partner smothers you
You seem out of sync
You worry about how you look
You feel guilty
Your partner can’t handle it
You can’t handle it.
Whatever happens in your relationship, honesty is usually the best policy. It might make for tricky conversations, but at least it can get things off your chest. Try and talk things through without blaming or criticising.
It’s important to remember that cancer isn’t the only thing in your life, so make time to be together and talk about the stuff you’ve always talked about. And if you are having doubts about your relationship, try and be honest about that too. Having cancer doesn’t mean you should stay with someone who isn’t right for you.
It can be difficult to know who to tell and what to say about cancer at your school or work. Who you decide to tell is your choice – and it can help to weigh up the pros and cons before you do.
You might decide it’ll be too exhausting to keep it to yourself. Or you might be worried about getting a strange reaction or feel it’s nobody’s business. Whatever you decide, it can help to plan beforehand how much you want to say and to think about what you’re happy for people to pass on.
Your employer can’t discriminate against you because of your diagnosis and should offer you appropriate support. And your student support service at school should help you make decisions about your studies and provide support to you too.