Saturday, February 15, 2014

Young adults and cancer

I read an article on the Atlantic about the plight of young cancer patients. First of all, please do not use the word 'plight'. A plight is defined as: a condition, state, or situation, especially an unfavorable or unfortunate one. To me its another one of those sneaky, snarky labels with negative overtones. And the article also calls them survivors which is not my favorite term as well. A double negative for me.

Yes, life sucks after a cancer diagnosis. Particularly if you are younger and there are no others around with cancer to help you cope. I was one of them and I do not think that I had a plight. I had a life to live and figure out.

After cancer at any age, you are left with a mangled body, soul, and finances. I was luckier than most as my cancer did not require chemotherapy at age 19. My finances were covered through my parents' health insurance but I had the body and soul of a cancer patient.

Well back to the article. I did like it. I did like the information provided about the issues a young cancer patient is left with. If some one at age 20 is diagnosed with cancer, in addition to everything else, they are left with deciding what to do with their future. Maybe they were in college and were planning a career, now they have to decided can they finish their studies as previously planned and then go on with their career.

What about dating and children? Would a potential partner be turned off by their scars and medical history? Are they now damaged goods in the dating world? If you are diagnosed at age 60 which is somewhere closer to the average age at diagnosis for most, dating and children are no longer an issue.

And finances - take your average post college debt and add on top of that medical bills. Where does that leave the young adult with cancer starting their life after cancer?

Finally, how do you repair the damaged soul of a cancer patient? I can tell you it can take a very long time before you want to open up and talk about your medical crap with anyone - even a therapist. Healing is difficult, long term, and deeply scarring.

So next time you see a teenager or 20 something at the oncologists office, think about what they are going through and where they are starting the rest of their life. How do they get a to a new normal for their adulthood if they never had one in the first place?

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