A cancer diagnosis is hard at any age but during young adulthood cancer poses a different set of challenges than might be experienced by children or older adults. A young adult, those between the ages of 18 – 40, may feel invincible but are, unfortunately, not immune to cancer as it impacts the lives of far too many young adults. During those years, a young adult may still be getting an education, beginning a new career, dating, getting married, having children, and much more. As a young adult, you may have concerns about healthcare coverage and how you will pay for treatment. These are common fears of young adults that are newly diagnosed with cancer but there are ways to cope with your diagnosis and live a fulfilling life.
First, if you are a young adult newly diagnosed with cancer, one of the most important things you can do is get support from trusted family or friends. One concern many young adults have is who they want to share their cancer diagnosis with. Young adults often have friends that may be unfamiliar with cancer and they may ask prying questions. It is up to you how much you want to share and when but by having a trusted confidante, it will make it easier to manage the emotions that come along with cancer treatment. Additionally, when discussing your diagnosis with your parents, the way they handle the news may vary greatly. Some parents are steely problem solvers and some fall apart – everyone handles the news differently. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children so the idea that their children are fighting a potentially terminal disease is heartbreaking and scary but, most importantly, as your parents, they love you. If family dynamics and relationships are in-tact and healthy, the support you receive from your parents could prove invaluable.
Another concern for young adults undergoing cancer treatment is bodily changes. Bodily changes due to treatment or surgery can be very small or very large and accepting those changes may prove difficult. This is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Before beginning treatment it is important to discuss what changes may occur with yoru physician so that you might be able to anticipate what is coming and prepare accordingly. Additionally, when physical changes occur it may affect relationships and intimacy. If you are dating you may wonder – who will date me now? Who will marry me now? The most important thing to focus on is health and healing. What you feel comfortable with as far as dating and intimacy is incredibly personal and can only be determined by you. But, many cancer patients and survivors have been successful in dating and marriage. Along the same lines, many young adults will wonder how cancer treatment will affect fertility. If you have not yet had children or plan to have more, the type of cancer treatment you receive could greatly impact fertility. Before beginning treatment speak to your doctor about ways to preserve fertility and provide yourself with options should you choose to start a family.
Lastly, many young adults are at the beginning of their career or deeply involved in their work. Taking prolonged periods of time off may simply not be an option, especially not if you want to receive medical benefits from your employer. It is important that you know your rights as an employee because you cannot be discriminated against in the workplace due to illness. There are many free legal resources available so that you can be informed about your rights in the workplace. Some people are able to maintain a full work schedule during treatment and others are completely unable to work. What you choose to do will be a personal decision based on your own health and diagnosis, as well as what your physician recommends. Being a young adult diagnosed with cancer can be scary but there are many ways to continue doing the things you enjoy, receive treatment and lead a happy and full life.