Teen Support During Cancer Treatment
08 Feb 2016
Many of the clients served by Brent’s Place are pediatric patients ranging in age from infancy to 15 years old, but we also serve as a home away from home for young adult patients like former resident, 20-year-old Rebecca Carcaterra, and two of our current residents, 18-year-old Raylene and 15-year-old Juan who are both battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Battling cancer is certainly not easy at any age, but living with cancer during the pivotal period of young adulthood comes with a unique set of challenges. Despite being the number one cause of disease-related death for people between the ages of 15-39, cancer is often associated with young children or older adults. This results in limited resources geared towards people in this age group living with the disease, which former Brent’s Place resident Rebecca says "can be isolating for people like young adults, who are caught between childhood and adulthood". She adds that "[i]t's especially challenging because this is the time in our lives when we are most striving for independence and self-sufficiency". During a time that is a period of transition into independence for their peers, having to constantly rely on parents, doctors, and others can be frustrating for young adults living with cancer and leave them feeling left behind while their peers are out there “making mistakes and figuring out who [they] are”.
So, what can be done to help ease the difficulties of the journey for young adults? As for how people close to them can help, Rebecca says that although she knows that they have your best interest at heart, caregivers and loved ones “should be cautious about treating young adults with cancer like little kids. I would recommend encouraging as much independence as possible in the situation.” As a 20-year-old in remission and back in college after a battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, Rebecca’s advice to other young adults battling cancer is to “keep [your] sense of humor, because making dark jokes was definitely my coping strategy. Watch a lot of escapist television. Eat a lot of brownies. I also recommend continuing to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone- give yourself responsibilities! Even though I didn't feel like it, I tried to make myself get dressed and put on jeans every day, read boring but educational books, and go on hikes and bike rides even though I was scared I physically wouldn't be able to. It wasn't that fun, but I felt proud of myself afterwards, and it felt good to accomplish something that made me proud after so many hours spent bored in bed”.