Of course, since I have cancer, I have been reading a lot of articles lately about the unique challenges younger cancer fighters face while dealing with cancer. When I reference to younger, I mean young adult category which I miss by one year since I am 40.
The reason I have been researching the unique challenges younger cancer fighters face is that I feel like I have been confronted with a lot of those challenges myself. We are all unique, both in the biology of our diseases and, in the way we experience cancer. While I share a lot of the physical effects of my cancer treatment with family, friends and on social media, it’s the psychosocial effects of cancer that are sometimes difficult for me to deal with and what those challenges look like?
Right out of the gate let’s talk about early death. Does it cross my mind? Sure it does. I don’t think about it all the time, but it does cross my mind. The reason I think early death crosses my mind is that I am 40 and things can change drastically with cancer in such a short amount of time. I think will I see 45 or even my 50th birthday? How will early death affect my family and friends? Of course, I cannot let these thoughts consume me. After I have thought about early death, I let the thought go and think about something positive or do something positive to shift my thinking.
What about disconnection from peers and having any social life? Do I feel isolated at times? Yes, I do, but I do have a few good friends and close family members who I talk to about my cancer journey and what my journey has been like. I can participate in some social gatherings, but it's nothing like before when cancer wasn't in my life. I do have a weekly yoga class that I attend that includes other cancer fighters and survivors. I am seeking out more social activities that include cancer patients because other cancer patients will understand me and living with cancer. There are resources like Stupid Cancer who can help to connect cancer patients to social activities in your local area.
Let’s talk about another big challenge, and that is fear of planning for a future. I do have difficulties with the planning, I live my life in segments now, and I don’t plan too far in advance into the future. The fear of a shortened life expectancy ends up making me fear planning for the future. I am getting better at this as my current treatment is going very well and the future is looking brighter, but there is always that lingering C word in the back of my mind trying to raise my fear level.
Finally, one last challenge is romantic relationships. In a way, I feel damaged, I mean I have cancer who wants try and start a relationship when you don’t even know what the future holds. I know right, I am going back to planning for the future. It’s challenging because you wonder “When do I tell them?” “How do I tell them?” are they going to reject me. I wanted to adopt before I got cancer that was always a goal of mine. Now I am not sure if that will ever happen. It still could be in the cards for me as well as finding a life partner. I don’t put a lot of effort in trying to make those romantic connections, but I need too.
I have talked about several challenges that I face, an early death, disconnection from peers and social life, fear of planning for the future and romantic relationships. I hope I have not been too much of downer, but I feel its import for others as well as other cancer fighters to know these challenges are real. As cancer fighters, we face similar challenges, and we have our own ways of dealing with them. There are resources out there to help guide you through these challenges and help to connect with other cancer fighters. I will post some of the resources I use and find helpful under bladder cancer resources.
If you have any questions, feedback or any additional resources please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org