When I found out my mom was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, I was scared.
I was only 11-years-old.
Other girls in my class were afraid of puberty and seeing their bodies change; afraid of getting their first period and not knowing how to insert a tampon. Or watching their breasts develop and having no idea where to get a bra or what size would fit.
But I was afraid of my mom dying.
I was scared; confused. sad. angry even. I needed answers. And I needed them now.
When my mom was re-diagnosed in 2016, all those feelings came rushing back.
Suddenly I was 11-years-old again. Only now I can say I’ve successfully learned how to insert a tampon and pick out my bra size, but those feelings of fear, confusion, sadness, and anger…
The exact same.
Learning that your parent, sibling, relative or friend has cancer is terrifying. You feel overwhelmed, sad, confused, and you really have no idea what to do next.
Based on my personal experience, these are five things I’ve learned to consider when hearing the news for the first time:
1. Remember that many people survive cancer
- The moment I found out that my mom has cancer, I instantly thought of her dying. But just because someone has cancer, does not mean they are going to die. Especially when you’re just finding out for the first time, it’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen. So, in the meantime, just remember that cancer does not always mean death. Patience is key.
2. Do not make an appointment with Dr. Google
- When you first find out that your loved one has cancer, you want all the answers. But I can guarantee that using Google to answer your questions is not an accurate source – you’ll often find false information or information that you don’t want to hear. If you have questions, ask a doctor. Google is not a doctor.
3. Do not blame anyone, especially yourself
- It’s easy to try and put the blame on someone when we feel sad or confused and need answers. But cancer is a disease with various causes, many of which doctors don’t fully understand. It’s no one’s fault – not the patient’s, the doctor’s, or your own. Don’t feel like the world is punishing you because someone you love has cancer. You can’t blame anyone, especially yourself.
4. Try to maintain a balance
- I used to find my mom’s cancer always on my mind, but it’s important to strike a balance; you can worry about your parent’s cancer while having a normal life. And don’t feel guilty if you’re not sad all the time – trust me, they want you to have fun and not think about their cancer 24/7.
5. Most importantly, remember you are not alone
- When you find out your parent has cancer, you feel like no one else in the world knows how you feel. But there are people like you going through the same thing – or at least something similar. You just have to find them and know it’s okay to talk to others about your feelings.
Remember to stay positive and keep smiling.