The disease occurs at a particularly critical time in the lives of young people 15-30 years old. They will have to endure many physiological and psychological changes at a time of their lives when they are still in search of identity, autonomy, and establishing intimate relationships.

Having to give up studies during treatment, being hospitalized in an environment where they are outnumbered by elderly people and being removed from their friends: these are all reasons that can contribute to the creation of a deep sense of isolation among young people with cancer. They now have to rely on the support of friends and family, and some will have move back in with their parents.

As a friend or relative, you can make a difference ... Find the right words, do the right things, respect the silences ... Your supportive role is very important and requires you to be well informed, because cancer is a complex disease that everyone reacts to differently.

Tips on offering support

There are no quick or infallible rules or easy-to-follow steps for supporting a young person living with cancer. But the following tips may help you, whether as a relative, friend, or loved one, to offer them the support they need.

Be yourself

  • Be open and frank.
  • Talk openly about the place that the person dealing with cancer wants to give you in their present situation.
  • Agree to talk about their future plans (there is life during and after cancer).

Respect:

  • their privacy, especially during periods of hospitalization. Despite good intentions, some people can do “too much”
  • their energy level;
  • how they decide to live each moment;
  • your commitments;
  • their confidentiality, it’s up to them to choose who should know or not;
  • their emotions, accept to see them cry, smile and laugh, accept their fears and anxieties;
  • their need for autonomy, just as would you do normally.

How best to support a person with cancer?

  • Give them concrete help by offering choices, because they don’t always know what they are entitled to ask for. And don’t be surprised if their needs change from day to day.
  • Pay them lots of small attentions.
  • Don’t hesitate to show them signs of affection. Physical contact can help them feel appreciated beyond words.
  • Offer them a ride or accompany them to their treatment.
  • Go and visit them at home or in hospital. If possible, and if they wish, spend the night with them at the hospital or their accommodation.
  • Arrange a party for them whenever possible.
  • Invite them to a group meal.
  • Keep in touch (by phone, email, text message, Skype, FaceTime, etc.).
  • Help them to find reliable resources: sources of information, community organizations, support groups.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions: Info-Cancer Library - Youth Collection, 1 800 363-00631 800 363-0063 FREE.
  • In short, be a part of their support team.

Be open

  • Express yourself when you are sad; relatives, loved ones and professionals are the best ones to discuss your anxieties with.
  • Make sure you understand them and are understood as much as possible in order to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
  • Leave room for others to provide needed support.
  • If they move back in with their parents, discuss the rules to be respected on both sides.

Too much is as bad as not enough

Sometimes the support we offer to young adults with cancer doesn’t help as much as we might think. It’s important to consider our words and our actions carefully; they can be awkward, even when motivated by good intentions.

Here are some examples of behaviour to avoid.
  • Doubting the efficacy of treatment or expressing your lack of confidence in the medical team.
  • Interfering in any way in the treatment or medication recommended by the nursing staff.
  • Imposing models to follow, such as saying “hang in there” and “just be positive all the time.”
  • Cutting ties because you don’t know what to say or do.
  • Minimizing or denying cancer.
  • Telling bad jokes or depressing anecdotes.

The Quebec Cancer Foundation is there for you...

To help you support the young adults in your life who are dealing with cancer, the Quebec Cancer Foundation has developed a brochure that gives a general description of cancer in 15-to-30 year olds and suggests the way to a range of services developed for individual needs.

Find out about our services for young adults with cancer by dialing 1 800 363-00631 800 363-0063 FREE.

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