Maintaining relationships during cancer treatment

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Maintaining relationships with family and friends can help you feel normal during a cancer treatment. Find out some suggestions to help you stay connected during treatment.

Key points

  • Staying connected to family and friends as you go through cancer treatment can help you stay positive and feel normal, even for just a short time.
  • Stay connected with friends through social media and texts, inviting friends to the hospital during visiting hours and playing video games or watching movies when at home.
  • For times when you can't see friends or family you can stay connected through social media, email, blogs and phone or video calls.
  • Cancer treatment may change your relationship with your significant other, so it is important to share your feelings with each other and find time to be together.

When you can, it is often helpful to try to spend time with friends and family. Having fun with other people can help you feel normal and forget about some of your worries, even if just for a short time.

At times, there will probably be things that you used to do with your friends or family that you now feel too tired or unwell to do. This can be really difficult to accept. Talk to your health-care team about activity options. With some modification, you may be able to do more than you think.

How can I stay connected with friends and family during treatment?

People in your life may not know what you are able to do and may hesitate to invite you to do things. It may be up to you to suggest some things you can do to have fun together. When you’re not feeling well or when your blood counts are low, you may need to get creative.

Here are some suggestions from other teenagers for times like this.

  • Have friends over to watch a movie or play a video game.
  • Ask your friends to send you photos or videos of stuff happening at school, or ask them to frequently update you through status updates or text messages. That way, you can stay connected even when you can’t be there yourself.
  • If you’re in the hospital and feeling well enough, you can invite friends in during visiting hours. If you’re worried the visit will feel awkward, try having cards or a game to play.
  • If you have one friend that you feel the closest to, maybe ask that person to help organize things with the rest of your friends for you.
  • Ask someone from your health-care team, such as a child-life specialist, to help you plan visits with friends so you can talk to them about your cancer.

What can I do when I just can't see friends and family?

These times are hard, and you may miss your friends and family. You may also feel left out, but there are things you can do to stay connected with your friends.

  • Talk to your friends through direct messages, email, Facetime or social media sites. You can also share links and videos, or create some videos of your own to share.
  • Start a blog or send group emails so people close to you know how you’re doing. This way, you only write the message once and it reaches everyone you want to update.
  • Of course, text messaging and talking on the phone are always an option.

How can I maintain a relationship with my boyfriend or girlfriend?

If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you may lean on this person for support. When you are faced with cancer, it is normal for you to feel differently about a lot of things. You may not feel like yourself. Cancer treatment can change your body, and medications such as steroids can cause mood changes that can be hard for your boyfriend or girlfriend to understand. Cancer can also affect your sexuality (sexual feelings and experiences).

Even with these changes, many teens find a way to stay close with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Be sure to share your feelings honestly so that you can understand and support each other. Try to find some time to be alone together in person or during private phone or online conversations.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019