What is your mood?

This section was designed to help you identify the feelings you may be experiencing, let you know you’re not alone, and give you positive ways to cope with how you are currently feeling.

We realize that not all suggestions will be helpful to each person, but we’re confident you’ll find something that can help you with where you are right now.

How are you feeling…

Browse through each tab by clicking on a feeling.

Are You Feeling Lonely?

“I feel like some of my friends are afraid to call me anymore, probably because they don’t know what to say about my mom having cancer, I miss doing stuff with them.”

– Kate, 14

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Don’t expect others to read your mind; share your feelings.
  • Recognize the importance of communication.
  • Connect with other teens in your community.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

Living with a loved one with cancer can cause feelings of isolation.  Often increased demands on household schedules can limit special times you spend with friends and family.  In some cases you may find that your own schedule of activities has to be adjusted.  Do your best to make and keep plans to spend time with the people who matter most to you.

Some of your friends may feel like they don’t know what to say to you.  You may feel like they can’t possibly understand what you are going through. Give them some help.  Tell your friends what is and isn’t helpful.  They may not be able to treat you as you’ve asked, but at least you tried.

Spend some time thinking of others in your life who can support you.  Consider aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers/counselors, coaches/troop leaders, school nurses, social workers, pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis and chaplains.  And use sites like this one to share your feelings with others who are in similar situations.

Are You Feeling Sad?

“It seems like when someone in your family has cancer that everyone around you is always sad. I hate being sad but it seems like there is no escaping it. I wish stuff would just go back to how it was before cancer.”

– Meredith, 15

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Recognize that sadness is NOT a sign of weakness.
  • Avoid denial, and know that it is okay to be sad; it’s totally normal for a teen in your situation to experience sadness.
  • Set aside time to deal with your feelings of sadness so you aren’t crushed with a wave of sadness during everyday activities.
  • Focus on the positive and give thanks for all of the good things in your life.
  • Meet with your school’s guidance counselor to discuss resources that are available in your community to help you manage your emotions.
  • A confidential online screening for depression may help determine whether an evaluation by a mental health professional is necessary. Check out http://www.depression-screening.org/.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

I’d like to explain depression and grief/sadness for a better understanding of your feelings.

  • Depression is more than being sad. It has been described as feeling physically as if you have a bad case of the flu and mentally like nothing you do is right.
  • You may not care about the things you used to care about.
  • Your friends are suddenly different than you are. They make a big deal out of things that you know  are no big deal.
  • You are grieving for the way things used to be before cancer entered your life.

Differences between grief and depression:

  • Grief = greater range of moods and feelings. Quick shifts from sadness to a normal state in the same day.
  • Depression = Moods and feelings are more static, little variability, consistent sense of depletion.
  • Grief = Internally or externally directed and capable of expression.
  • Depression = Absence of externally directed anger, internally directed.
  • Grief = weeping
  • Depression = Difficulty weeping or controlling weeping.
  • Grief = Guilt associated with specific aspects of the illness. Experience of the world as empty and meaningless. Preoccupation with the illness.
  • Depression = The loss confirms they are bad or worthless. Preoccupation with self.
Are You Feeling Worried?

“I’m worried that we are not going to be able to pay for my Dad’s treatment.”

– Jake, 17

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Find someone you trust and discuss the things that worry you.
  • Educate yourself about the disease that is troubling you- don’t assume you know everything.
  • Remember that anyone can write anything they want on the Internet, and carefully consider the credibility of online sources.
  • Keep talking to the person in your life with cancer, and avoid trying to mind-read.
  • Spend time in prayer/meditation.
  • This serenity prayer comforts many people: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
  • Exercise. Do something to take your mind off of it.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

You would not be normal if hearing that a loved one had cancer did not evoke some worry.  Feeling downright scared some of the time is even common, but feeling stressed most of the time may be a sign that you need some help managing your emotions.  Try some of the following activities:

  • Find one person to talk to and share your thoughts and feelings with them.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Have a good cry.
  • Pray alone or with another person.
  • Journal, writing whatever comes to your mind.
  • Relax.  Try and spend ten minutes a day quieting your mind and concentrating (meditating) on good memories and mind pictures that help you feel less upset.  Breathe deeply and concentrate on relaxing your muscles.
  • Avoiding using alcohol or drugs.  They are temporary escapes that will leave you with more problems to cope with.

If you find yourself plagued with anxious thoughts that may even cause you to feel physically upset (shaking, difficulty breathing, irregular heart beat, dizziness, nausea or hives) you may benefit from talking with your doctor, counselor or school nurse about other ways to handle your anxiety.

Are You Feeling Angry?

“Cancer makes me angry for a lot of reasons. Like why my mom was the one to have to get it. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s totally out of my control and I hate that feeling.”

– Dane, 16

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Save your anger for the disease; don’t take it out on your loved ones.
  • Take action by praying for healing, organizing a fundraiser, etc.
  • Be assertive: express your feelings without assaulting others with your anger.
  • Don’t expect people to read your mind – try to see what’s beneath your anger and address it
  • Physical exercise is a good outlet for anger.
  • Arrange a family meeting time to discuss your concerns with family members.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

Are you flying off the handle, and blowing up for no reason? When someone looks at you are you losing it, yelling or even hitting them when they don’t really deserve it? Being out of control is scary and dangerous. You may be behaving in a way that is totally unlike you, striking out at those you love, your family and your friends.

You may even be mad at God. You question what is happening. Being angry at God is not a horrible sin- God knows and He understands. Sometimes angry prayers are  the most real because they come from deep inside. How about being angry at the person who is sick? They don’t want to be sick, and they can’t help it. Intellectually, you know this. In your gut, however, you may want to cry out, “How can you do this to me?” Anger can build up inside of you, and if you do not get it out it can cause you to become depressed, tired and listless.

There are a lot of ways that you can get your anger under control. Some ways sound stupid and you might even feel silly when you first try one, but they do work. Remember it is better to be angry at things instead of people. Here are some things to try:

  • Go to your room. Hit your bed as hard as you can with your fist, a plastic bat or a tennis racket.
  • Buy a punching bag. Use it every day.
  • Go to your room turn on music loud enough so that no one can hear you and yell as loud as you can.
  • Another great place to vent is driving your car someplace private and park; just yell.
  • Tear up paper.Tear it to shreds,wad them into balls and throw them.
  • Run.
  • When you find yourself really mad at someone, walk away.

There are also some less physical ways to get rid of your anger:

  • Talk to someone about how you feel.
  • Write down how you feel in a journal. Write something every day. This can be about anything, not just your anger. Getting your thoughts down on paper will help to release your feelings.
Are You Feeling Hopeful?

“Sometimes it is hard to find a reason to have some hope.”

– Jill, 15

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Check the In The News section on this site and read about all the advances being made in the fight against cancer.
  • Know that there are millions of cancer survivors living normal lives today.
  • Participate in a cancer related fundraiser, or start your own.
  • Read Bible verses that encourage hope.
  • Connect with other teens who have seen a loved one through his or her battle with cancer.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

Hope is not a noun; it is a verb!  It is not something you can have taken away but something you choose to do.  The following are ways to hope:

  • Hope you make every day count.
  • Hope that your loved one will have a pain-free day both physically and mentally.
  • Hope that you will have courage to share your true feelings with someone.
  • Hope that others will attempt to understand how you are feeling.
  • Hope that you will remain patient with those who don’t understand what a real problem is.
  • Hope that cancer will be a thing of the past and that it will stay out of your future.
  • Hope that your faith will be increased.
  • Hope that no matter what your loved one is told, you will never let go of your belief in miracles.
  • Hope that your empathy takes over your sympathy.
  • Hope that you can learn to walk in your loved ones shoes and understand what they are going through.
  • Hope that your fear is replaced with peace.
  • Hope that your anger will be controlled.
  • Hope that you will never let go of your sense of humor. (Sometimes laughter is the only thing that gets you through the moment.)
  • Hope that you can put to use all the good things cancer has taught you.
  • Hope that you will not put off telling others what they mean to you.
Are You Feeling Guilty?

“I wonder if my dad got cancer because he worked so hard to earn extra money for us kids so we could go on vacations and be in sports-camps. It feels like maybe we are to blame.”

– Matt, 13

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Realize that cancer has many varied causes and no one person is ever responsible for causing cancer in another.
  • It’s okay to feel guilt about things. You felt guilt in your life before cancer and you will feel it after cancer is gone from your life.
  • Remember that feeling guilty doesn’t do anything to improve any situation.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

Guilt is a feeling you experience when you think you are to blame for something.  Whenever you experience feelings of guilt, do some investigating.  What do you feel bad about?  If you recognize something that you did (or didn’t) do that you feel badly about, you may be experiencing true guilt.  Like pain, true guilt prompts us to take action to make things right. So do it.  True guilt goes away when we own up and take account for our wrong doing in word or deed.

If you find yourself still plagued by feelings of guilt you are probably dealing with false guilt.  It is a useless emotion.  It is usually based on wrong or even magical thinking.  “The cancer should have happened to me…I shouldn’t be having fun when she is home sick…If only I hadn’t…”  The best way to deal with false guilt is to take it off, one bogus thought at a time. Sometimes it is easier to let a true thought push out an old thought.  Spend time thinking about those things you feel good about from the past.  Spend some time thinking about creative ways you can bless your loved one now.

Keep in mind, you are at a time in your life when you are separating from your family and going your own way.  It is normal to want to spend time alone and away from home.  When a parent is ill, they want to spend more time with you, not less.  They are not willing to fight with you.  Don’t beat yourself up over your feelings or a certain degree of conflict, but do force yourself to slow down and do the right thing by your parents once in awhile.

Are You Feeling Confused?

“My dad and mom are always talking about whats happening with his cancer. I don’t understand half the stuff they’re talking about, like with treatment and what’s happening. I want to understand whats going on. I’m just tired of hearing about it all.”

– Lauren, 15

How to Deal – What Teenagers Suggest:

  • Don’t let your mind race too far into the future; think about things in terms of one day at a time.
  • Communicate with the adults in your life and don’t be afraid to ask questions — there are no stupid questions.
  • Prayer and meditation can be great strategies for dealing with confusion.

How to Deal – What Professionals Suggest:

Cancer has a way of rocking your world. Get your bearings. You may need some information. There are hundreds of kinds of cancers and many different treatments. Surfing the internet may or may not be helpful. Your family member or loved one knows the most about their cancer. If you have specific questions, write them down and then ask for a time to discuss them. If your loved one isn’t able to answer your questions or ready to talk. Consider one of these additional resources.

Your Stories

Hear stories from teens…

About a year and a half ago my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the same time my friends mom had just finished her treatment and it was encouraging to see her get through it. It gave me hope that my mom would be ok and as well as she was before.

– Drew, 16

My uncle was diagnosed with multiple myeloma three years ago. My mom spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to Chicago, where my uncle lives. I felt guilty wishing she were at home with me when my uncle needed her more.

– Kendall, 18

Though cancer has its negative effects, in the long run it has been a blessing in regards to the way I live my daily life. I know that each day is a gift to be celebrated and I thank God for opening my eyes to all that is beautiful and good in this world.

– Sydney, 19

When I found out my mom had cancer, hearing that word, ‘cancer’ was like getting punched in the chest. Being away at college, I felt helpless. But, the best advice I was given was to stop worrying, because worrying was not going to help my mom survive.

– Anne, 18

When I was 9 years old my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. My feelings ranged from sad to confused to hopeful. My feelings don’t matter- all that matters is that my mother lives a faith-filled life and the holy spirit heals her.

– Maggie, 13