It’s been awhile since my last blog post because I have been very busy with a new project. This new project started because of a conversation I had a few months ago with a high school student. He approached me asking me about my experiences with breast cancer. At first, it took me by surprise. It turned out that he needed answers to share with his mom.
You see, on that day, I found out that his mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. In a few days, she was going to start her chemotherapy treatment. From the outside, you wouldn’t know that he was going through something at home. You would just think that he was a high school student dealing with the normal teenage life – keeping busy with school work and extracurricular activities. However, for him, that was not the case. Talking to him, you could tell he was scared and didn’t know what to expect.
The questions he asked me made me realize that deep inside, he was going through a tough time. Some of the questions he asked were, “How do I help my mom? Is she going to be okay?” I took out my phone and started looking for answers online. While researching for ways to help this student, I came across an online booklet published by the National Cancer Institute “When Your Parent Has Cancer – A Guide for Teens”. Also, the American Cancer Society published “Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing with Treatment”. I found these articles very helpful for families going through this journey. It provides tips on how to talk to your children about cancer, ways teenagers can cope with their feelings, and how teenagers deal with the situation differently from younger children.
During the conversation with this student, I openly shared with him my experiences – the good and also the bad. He was very pleased to see that I was doing well – that after all the treatments I went through, I kept strong and positive and fought with everything I had. Because of that, he too believes that his mom will do the same and be okay. I let him know that it would be tough for his mom, as well as his family, but that he could support her by being hopeful and continue being himself.
I will never forget that conversation. It made me want to help other students like him. So, I continued my research on children and teenagers who are affected by cancer. I am part of a monthly support group and enjoy spending time with and learning from ladies who have gone through similar experiences. I was hoping to find support groups for teenagers out there going through the same thing. Unfortunately, I was not able to find one.
Then, I thought to myself, “If I can’t find one, then I’ll start one.” Seeing how much this student cared for his mom and wanted to help her really touched my heart. I didn’t realize how much children are affected, too. I knew my nieces (who were 1st and 2nd grade at that time) saw what I was going through throughout my journey. I had spoken with them about what was to be expected – how I would not be able to pick them up from school, how I may be too tired to be around them, and how they could not get too close to me if they were sick. I was surprised at how understanding they were as children. There was a time though, when they didn’t know how to react when I didn’t look like myself…when I lost my hair. I don’t have any kids of my own so I can only imagine what parents have to tell their children; let alone, how the kids will handle the situation, from dealing with their own challenges at school to coming home to help with their parent with cancer.
So, after much thinking and discussing it with Sonny (if you haven’t read my last blog, Sonny is my fiancé), we decided to start a support group for teenagers at Farrington High School, my workplace and alma mater. Being that we are both cancer survivors and proud Farrington alumni, we feel we can share our experiences and help teenagers go through this journey with their loved ones. It took awhile for the planning and preparation, but with help from the school’s social workers, we were able to get approval from the principal of the school. I’m proud to introduce to you, S.U.P.P.O.R.T. CARE (Strength. Unity. Peers. Peace. Outreach. Resources. Trust. because Cancer Affects Relatives Emotionally).
This is an open invitation for teens attending Farrington High School who are affected by cancer – whether they are a survivor or living with a parent or relative with cancer. We hope to provide the students with a place to share their stories – their feelings and concerns with others who are dealing with similar issues. We want the students to know that they have a place to turn to when cancer touches their lives. The support group will begin at the start of the next school year. We hope to reach out to students affected by cancer and let them know that they are not alone.
If you have any advice for me as to how I can make this support group a success or if you want more information about our group, feel free to comment below.