What Am I Doing Here?
You’re a teenager who has cancer, and you’re probably wondering all sorts of things, like:
- Why me?
- Who gets cancer, anyway?
- Is this my fault?
- How am I supposed to cope with being bald? Zits were bad enough.
- What am I doing here in a children’s hospital with all the little kids?
- Who are all these people—doctors, nurses, nutritionists, art therapists? And why do I need a social worker? Or any of them?
- My family is freaking out—what am I supposed to do?
- Will I ever get my normal life back?
Then there’s other confusing stuff, like medical terms, choosing the best hospital and best treatment for you (if you haven’t made these decisions yet), and finding out about clinical studies. Here are the answers to the questions above, plus a few more to help you understand what is going on.
Most or all of your care will happen at Seattle Children’s if you’re a patient of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). The people at Children’s will also hook you up with other teens living with cancer, in support groups or online.
If you’re like most teenagers, you’d rather spend your time thinking about your life and all the changes that are happening (like growing six inches in a year or developing sexually)—plus friends, school, parents, popularity, looks and the future.
Cancer probably doesn’t fit in your picture of your life. At first it may feel like your life will never be the same. How will your friends react? Why are your parents being so weird? How are you supposed to go out in public with NO HAIR?
The first thing to realize is that your life probably never will be exactly the way it was before. You will have changed. You will have grown up some. And, most likely, you will have settled into a “new normal,” which is the way your life is going to be during and after cancer treatment. It’s OK to rely on your friends and others for support. Read about Danel, a high-school student, and his friends to see how he dealt with his cancer.
There are lots of people at SCCA and Children’s who can help you and your family with your feelings as you go through cancer treatment. These people will probably stop by to see you, or you can ask to see them: Child Life specialists, Child Life volunteers and social workers.
Hang in there. Take care of yourself. You’re going to do great!
If you are a teen with cancer, you probably have lots of questions. Here are some answers. If the information you want isn’t here, ask your doctor, your nurse, or a Child Life specialist. Don’t be shy about asking—they’ve heard it all before, and they want to help.
It seems scary, but treatment for cancer is not as bad as it used to be. Treatments themselves are improving all the time, and so are the strategies and drugs to help minimize side effects.
Many of the teens with cancer who come to SCCA and Seattle Children’s are treated in clinical studies, research studies to find new and better treatments.
All the things you’ve learned about staying healthy—good nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep and so on—may seem irrelevant once you find out that you have cancer. But hopefully you won’t feel that way for long. It is especially important now to take good care of yourself.
Here is a list of websites and other resources you might find useful as you deal with your cancer diagnosis and treatment.