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Should I Go to Prom if I Have Cancer?

Prom is a milestone.

It’s nearing the end of the school year. High school graduation is getting closer. College and careers lie just around the corner. For many it’s the first time to dress up in a tuxedo or formal dress. It may be the last time all of your friends are celebrating together in the same place.

For teen cancer patients, the prospect of prom may feel daunting. You might feel a little awkward about going. Maybe the dress you chose shows some of your central line. Or perhaps you might tire more easily than your friends.

You’re not alone. Many patients have considered whether or not to go to prom. They often ultimately recommend going if you are medically able, and it’s something you want to do.

If you’re thinking about not going because you are afraid you may feel awkward, consider going.

Prom can be whatever you make it. You don’t have to dress up if you’re uncomfortable doing that. You don’t have to go with a date. You can go with a group of friends. Do prom the way you want to.

A male cancer patient in a suit holding a corsage before attending prom.

For Chandler, Prom Was a ‘Jump Start’

 

If you really don’t want to go to prom because you don’t feel like it, then you don’t have to. But if you don’t want to go because you think it might be awkward, you should go. It's about you. It's not about anyone else.

Chandler

Chandler wasn’t sure at first if he’d go to his senior prom, but he’s really glad he did.

Now in college, Chandler was diagnosed with a brain tumor called medulloblastoma at the end of his freshman year of high school. He underwent brain surgery two times, 30 rounds of radiation, and seven rounds of chemotherapy.

He missed much of his sophomore year. His family moved a few months before his treatment ended just before his junior year.

That year was hard. He was starting a new school. He had spent a year having cancer treatment. He mainly focused on getting better and catching up with school. “I was bald and different. I didn’t know anyone,” Chandler said.

But things started looking up for Chandler senior year. He felt better. His hair grew back. He wanted to make friends. Slowly but surely it started to happen.

Still, he felt a little nervous about prom. But a girl who is a friend of his asked him to go. They went with a group of other friends.

“It was little awkward because I had spent a lot of time not being social,” Chandler said. “I look at prom as a jump start to my social life. I had kind of forgotten how to socialize with people my age. I had spent so much time dealing with things that most teenagers will never have to deal with for their whole lives.”

Looking back on it, it was a happy experience. But going to prom is an individual choice.

“If you really don’t want to go to prom because you don’t feel like it, then you don’t have to,” Chandler said. “But if you don’t want to go because you think it might be awkward, you should go. It's about you. It's not about anyone else.”

For Mandy, Prom Is a Time to Celebrate with Friends

Three people in dresses before prom.
 

No one cares how you look. They are just there to have fun. Prom is about having fun with your friends.

Mandy

Mandy missed her first year of high school because she was getting treatment for leukemia.

When it was time for her sophomore year to begin, Mandy did not want to go back to school.

“My mom forced me to go back for my sophomore year,” Mandy said. “I’m glad she did. It turned out to be good after I got adjusted. It was kind of rough at first. I didn’t go into the hallways whenever someone else did because of the germs. I left a few minutes early. The first month I ate lunch in the counselor’s office because I didn’t want to go in the lunchroom.”

She still doesn’t like crowds, so she was nervous about attending her junior prom. But she decided to go. Her boyfriend, Isaac, was her date.

Mandy and her prom date, Isaac.

Mandy’s life during cancer treatment was sheltered. She was not used to being around a lot of other people. She did not like crowds.

“I was nervous about the crowd. I still don’t do well in crowds because of the germs,” Mandy said.

She went to her senior prom, too. Mandy said she had more fun the second time because she and her boyfriend Isaac went with a big group of friends.

“I’m not the most social person,” Mandy said. “It was kind of awkward at first. But you’re there to have fun. It helps you get over the awkwardness. I’m not the best at making new friends because I’m shy.”

Mandy said prom should focus on celebrating with friends. Don’t miss the opportunity because you’re worried about how you look or because you feel awkward.

“No one cares how you look,” Mandy said. “They are just there to have fun. Prom is about having fun with your friends.”

A female cancer patient in a dress before prom.

For Mallie Kate, Prom Creates Memories of a Lifetime

 

You’ve been through so much to get this far. It should be a celebration of what you’ve been though.

Mallie Kate

Mallie Kate always knew she wanted to go to prom.

She frequently suffers from fatigue, but she has never let that hold her back.

“I didn’t want to look back on it and wish I had gone,” Mallie Kate said. “It’s one of the last opportunities you have to celebrate with your friends. It’s one last time together before you go your separate ways.”

If you are medically able and you want to, Mallie Kate encourages people to go to prom. Even if you’ve lost your hair. Or you have scars. Or you’ve gained weight from taking steroids.

“I think that’s a whole other reason to go,” Mallie Kate said. “You’ve been through so much to get this far. It should be a celebration of what you’ve been though.”