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‘Cancer Is a Scary Word, Especially for Teenagers Who Often Feel Invincible’

By Emma

I was always a very social girl. You could find me hanging out with my friends, going to football games, or shopping. When I was diagnosed at the age of 16 with papillary thyroid cancer, I was nervous to tell my friends.

How would they react? Would my relationships change?

Cancer is a scary word, especially for teenagers who often feel invincible. I remember hesitantly telling my friend Margaret. We cried at first, but then we ended up laughing and having a surprisingly normal day.

How would my friends react? How would our relationships change?

This initial response gave me hope that some degree of normalcy could be possible with this frightening diagnosis, and I soon felt more comfortable opening up to my friends.

During my treatment, one of my biggest concerns was missing out on friend-oriented activities. I worried my friends would not want to be around me if I was sick. However, I quickly realized this was not the case.

Emma laying in a hospital bed with a friend standing nearby.

Most of them were extremely supportive, coming to see me in the hospital, helping me catch up on homework, and lending a hand whenever I needed it. At school, they even took turns carrying my backpack to class after surgeries. Knowing I could depend on my friends when times were tough was comforting.

A cancer diagnosis forces big changes in your life... health changes, but also relationship changes. Because all relationships take work, it can be hard to maintain friendships when a major illness happens.

My mom told me at the beginning of my cancer journey I would find out who my real friends are during the hard times. The reality is not all of your friends can handle something as hard as cancer at such a young age, and that’s okay.

Being a teenager is awkward, and some of your friends may not know what to say or how to act. Letting them know this is also awkward for you too may be helpful. Cancer will inevitably bring some changes to your relationships, but hopefully these changes will be positive and lead to even stronger friendships.

Knowing I could depend on my friends when times were tough was comforting.

Posted: August 2020