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Psychosocial effects of cancer on teenagers

seimome
Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2005

Hello -

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease at 17 and after 12 cycles of ABVD, was given a clean bill of health. What I wasn't prepared for was the psychosocial issues I was dealing with a year later. I experienced severe anxiety attacks and have had bouts with depression.

Currently, I'm a graduate student in the journalism at Northeastern University. I'm writing an article about the psychosocial effects of cancer on teenagers.

I was hoping that some of you would share your experiences regarding difficulty with relationships, depression, or anxiety after you completed treatment.

Thanks for your help!

shmurciakova's picture
shmurciakova
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

That is great that you have a clean bill of health. I am a colon cancer survivor. I am 34 years old now, and will be 35 soon. I was diagnosed at 31. All I know is that the psychological effects are much worse than the physical aspects, in my experience. One of the roughest things to deal w/ is the fear of recurrence. Just try focusing on the fact that you are healthy and WILL continue to be.
As for the differences between a teenager and an adult, I cannot say. But I felt too young for this to happen to me, so I can only imagine what someone your age would feel. Talk to your doctor and maybe they can refer you to a psychologist who deals w/ teenage cancer patients. For me, going for walks helps alot.
Take care, Susan.

truejoy8's picture
truejoy8
Posts: 41
Joined: Jan 2004

Congrats on being Cancer-free. I just recently recieved that title myself. I'm 23 now and was 21 when diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. I did 12 cycles of ABVD and thought i had beaten it for 3 or 4 month untill it came back. I did more chemo, radiation, anda Bone marrow transplant last October. As hard as all that physical stuff was, the emotional stuff was MUCH harder.
I was 21 and striving for my independance...but with this illness I had to live with my father and he had to take care of me like a baby again at times. That brought up all kinds of emotional junk. There is always the fear that it will come back. It can hit you without warning at the oddest times, just when you think your past it. And there is also a strange kind of survivors guilt when you DO beat it. Because you knwo that so many others out there don't or have a harder time. Then it's almost like you feel bad for feeling bad because you've beaten it.
Anyways good luck with your article, you may have finished already by now though. Feel free to email me at Shanti@parmeleefamily.com if you have any more questions.

AuthorUnknown
Posts: 1564
Joined: May 2006

Hi - I just found this website and saw your post. It's been a few months since you posted - I wonder if you had written the article yet?

I wasn't quite a teenager anymore when I was diagnosed and treated - 22, just had graduated from college. But probably some similar issues. I was at a major cancer hospital but there were no patients anywhere near my age that I ever saw. I felt much more of a connection with the staff, many of whom were about my age since it was a teaching hospital. Everyone thought my mom was the patient when she was with me, and she got a lot more out of the support groups that we tried.

Shortly after treatment I started grad school and it was a surreal experience going from a setting where everything revolved around tests and treatment to a world where no one had any idea of what I had gone through. I felt very isolated, and that combined with fatigue and residual pain from other treatment side effects had me pretty well depressed at times.

Well, I'm sure you know what I mean. Hope you are doing well. I had HD nineteen years ago and have been struggling with the balance between feeling like a hypochondriac and feeling like I am being stupid for not taking my health seriously ever since. I've been blessed with relatively good health since my cancer, but the least little thing can scare me half to death. I have had panic attacks too, over the years, not to many luckily; now I'm wondering if there is some physical basis because I have apparently developed some cardiac issues - don't know if they are radiation related or even serious yet. Going through testing on that issue currently.

Well, mainly I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you thinking to write an article about that. Dealing with psychosocial issues was no question the hardest part for me, and there were very few resources for folks in my age group at the time, other than the incredible kindness of many individuals.

Elisabet

lilmom2's picture
lilmom2
Posts: 14
Joined: Jan 2003

I was a teen when diagnosed and treated for GTD (Gestational Trophoblastic Disease) and I have to say that the emotional side effects are far worse than the diagnosis, tests, and treatment.

Now, I'm 26, 10 years in remission so it's considered a cure. And I've learned that one of my chemo drugs puts me at a higher chance for an Acute Leukemia. Add that to the fact that I also picked up a bad habit of smoking, which can also lead to AML and it's just not a positive looking thing. I'm a wife and a mom now, and from time to time still find myself preoccupied with the whole cancer thing. And it can rack my emotions. I don't think it's so much that I fear facing it again, I think it's the fear of knowing that I have so much to loose if I don't beat it again. There are times that I think my family physican even thinks I'm a bit nuts when I go in demanding a CBC, checking out every little lump I find...anywhere. It's like I've spent 10 years screaming at doctors to listen to me. It's not that I don't think they know what they are doing, but there are times I simply want to put my mind at ease. Now would be one of those times.

My spouse even thinks I'm a bit "kooky" at times. Like here recently, some things sort of clicked with me and have me concerned. I'm not panicking, but I'm concerned. When you realize, Ok, I've had some swollen glands and got them checked out and nothing noticeable, was told it's probably from smoking. But then I began getting frequent infections, nothing that couldn't be treated at home. I figured, hey, it's a yeast infection, not the first one I've had. But then it keeps coming back...regularly! And then the joint pain in my left shoulder surfaced. I thought..ah I've probably been sitting at the computer too long. Then I start itching...for no reason. And then within the past few days I've been running low grade fevers, mostly at night. It feels like I have an inside radar going off that is screaming at me "Go to the doctor...NOW." And inwardly, I know what it *could* be, but also know that there is a high probability that it isn't and I AM going to look like I'm nuts when I go in demanding a CBC!

I think that living with the thought of "this can happen again" leaves us at a point that we are always a bit...precautious. We still continue on with our lives, but this thought constantly lives in the back of our minds, and WILL surface itself every so often. And off goes our own private emotional battle. I've come to the point that I think it's simply that we live our lives preparing for the worst, and then when something comes back that is not the worst possible outcome, we know that we can handle it.

Since my cancer, I've faced a brain abcess that at first I was told was probably a brain tumor. By the time I made the 1 hr. treck to my oncologist, I was prepared for him to hand me that devastating blow of "You have a brain tumor". He ran some more tests and then told me, "Good news and bad news. The good news is..you don't have a brain tumor. The bad news is that what you do have is just as deadly. More good news is you don't need any chemo so you can keep your hair. But the bad news is, you have to have a central line and do IV antibiotics twice a day for atleast the next 6 weeks. Plus antibiotic pills and regular MRI's". I had already prepared myself to deal with a tumor...sorry, it does NOT get worse than that. An infection is way less emotionally straining. Yes it can be deadly, but hey...it like comparing the common cold to pneumonia when you compare it to a potentially inoperable brain tumor.

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