by GEMMA CROTTY
Along with the normal worries that arise due to a cancer diagnosis, one of the concerns teenagers may have is how to approach the subject when they return to school.
As we all know, fitting in during adolescence can already prove to be a challenge. Because of this, it’s understandable if young adults fear that their diagnosis will make them an outcast.
It is perfectly normal to feel this way, but with some advice, young adults may find it easier to know how to discuss the topic of their diagnosis.
Classmates and peers
You shouldn’t feel pressured to tell your peers about your diagnosis if you don’t want to. One reason some may choose to keep it private is that they see school as a place where they can be themselves, and have a sense of normality during an otherwise uncertain time. Many teens consider it important to fit in with their peers, and therefore it is fine if they would prefer not to speak about their diagnosis.
You also shouldn’t feel the need to reply to insensitive comments or questions from classmates, such as ones about appearance and behaviour. If these make you uncomfortable, you can either tell the person so, or ignore them.
However, to try to prevent situations like this, it may be beneficial for your classmates to be collectively informed of your condition. For example, this may be done by asking a parent or your teacher to speak to your class and provide basic information about your diagnosis. This way, you won’t have to repeat yourself to everyone, and can have someone there to help answer questions.
If you have close or trusted friends, you should be able to tell them about your diagnosis without feeling that they’ll judge you or abandon you. In fact, if they’re good friends then they’re probably more than willing to provide you assistance when you need it.
For example, you might like to ask them to walk into class with you on your first day back from treatment so that you don’t have to do it alone. Other ways they might aid you is by helping to answer questions from other students, or by carrying your books for you.
You or your parents might only like to inform your school of your diagnosis once the initial shock has worn off, or when you have begun treatment.
When your teachers are aware of your condition, they will be able to help you to feel more comfortable while at school. You should also tell them whether you would like other teachers or anyone else in the school community to know.
As a possible option, you could elect a small group of people, such as the principal, vice principal, school counsellor and your class teachers to be informed of your diagnosis, so that they will be able to provide care and support. Unless there are overriding health and safety issues, no one should be informed of the student’s diagnosis without the consent of the student or their parent.
Ultimately, your teachers are there to help you and should be looked to as an extra means of support during this time.
Gemma Crotty is a volunteer blog writer for Solaris Cancer Centre from her home in Melbourne. Currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Communication at La Trobe University, she is considering a career in communications or journalism. Gemma has a strong humanities research background from her Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Sydney. She has a keen passion for writing and likes to find new ways to hone her skills and connect to others through her words.