A cancer diagnosis can be isolating, especially for this age group. You may feel that your diagnosis is yours alone to cope with, and perhaps feel the need to withdraw from others. This is normal; however, finding your support network is important. Allowing open communication with family, friends and loved ones may help you feel more supported in the long-term.
Parents. After a cancer diagnosis, young adults who have previously lived on their own sometimes choose to move back into their parents’ home temporarily. While this may feel like you are giving up your independence, remember that it is temporary. You will want to make sure that your emotional, practical and financial needs are being met during this time period. Be honest about your need for privacy and share your feelings and emotions with your parents. You may find them to be a strong source of emotional and practical support.
Siblings. Watching a brother or sister face a cancer diagnosis is difficult for siblings of any age. They may want to help you in practical ways such as providing transportation to and from treatment or helping with household tasks. Encourage your siblings to talk openly with you. Let them know that they can support you by just taking the time to listen. Spend time together talking about subjects other than cancer.
Friends. Oftentimes, you will find that friends and peers will not know how to respond to the news of your cancer diagnosis. While this may feel discouraging, do not be afraid to take the lead in reaching out to them. Be honest about what you need and what you feel like discussing. If your friends want to help, ask them to help you in specific ways such as running errands, providing transportation or preparing meals. Although some friendships may change during this time in your life, focus on the friends who are able to listen to you and support you.
Spouses and partners. Most young adults do not expect their spouse or significant other to be diagnosed with cancer. The thought and fear of losing a loved one can be overwhelming. Sometimes this fear can drive an emotional wedge between partners and negatively affect communication. It is important for each of you to talk openly and honestly about your thoughts, feelings and fears. Remember, you do not need to always talk about cancer. Discussing day-to-day topics can help bring back a sense of normalcy to your lives. If you find yourself needing further support, CancerCare can help by offering individual case management and counseling to patients and to caregivers.
Intimacy in relationships. The way you feel about your sexuality may change as a result of your cancer. There are side effects to treatment and surgeries that may cause a decrease in self-esteem and sexual libido. Discussing sexuality with your partner may feel uncomfortable at first, but it can lead to a greater sense of emotional intimacy. Be honest about your feelings and encourage your partner to be open about their feelings as well. Communication will become increasingly important as your relationship grows. Read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled “Intimacy During and After Cancer Treatment” for more information.