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Teens – Choosing Hope Amid Life Challenges

You are considered a cancer Survivor from the moment of your diagnosis, throughout treatment and beyond.

You have already picked up some tips regarding how to deal with the first phase of survivorship, and may be about to start the second phase, both described in other sections of the AYA Free2Bme site – the phases of survivorship are described below:

1) Living with cancerreceiving your cancer diagnosis, learning more about cancer and receiving cancer treatment

2) Living through cancer – the period following cancer treatment when cancer Survivors see their oncologists for check-ups to monitor that they are still in remission, two to four times a year, depending on their circumstances.

3) The third phase of survivorship is ‘living beyond cancer’ which refers to long-term survivorship. This phase may still present with challenges related to physical or emotional consequences of cancer.

*Source: CANSA Fact Sheet: Cancer Survivorship

Images Credit: Freepik

Survivorship Tips

Your Physical Self and Space

1) Your physical space or environment should be set up to accommodate any physical changes you have had to undergo due to cancer treatment. Think of ways to make your life easier by taking these things into consideration. Are certain things too hard to reach? Make them easier to reach. Is there sufficient space to move freely? If not, change up the furniture. Is medication always hard to find? Create a special place for medication or any other necessities.

2) Try to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle which includes getting enough sleep.

3) You need at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep. Avoid late night screen time, drinks that will keep you awake like coffee or energy drinks. It helps to go to bed at a regular time and if your bedroom is arranged in such a way that it will calm you down (get rid of the stuff on your bed so you can use it for its intended purpose). Establishing a relaxing bed time routine like reading, taking a bath or meditating may also be helpful.

4) If your pain is not being managed properly it will be hard to function. Work together with your medical team to establish a pattern of when you experience pain and how intense that pain is, in order for them to prescribe the right medication to bring you relief. Download the CANSA Pain App and the At Home Pain Guide booklet to help you keep track. Always take pain medication when prescribed – don’t wait until you feel pain to take the medication if it is meant to be taken regularly to avoid pain – set an alarm on your phone if necessary. Find other ways to deal with pain that work for you, for example massage or gentle stretching (always be sure to check with your medical team that this is in order).

Your Mental Well-being

1) Your physical space can play a role in how you feel – if your environment is dirty or cluttered you may feel overwhelmed. Make sure the space you live in is clean and organised to help you feel in control.

2) Your cancer journey has changed the way you look at life. Take time to measure what is really important to you and spend your time mostly on these things. This will give your life the most meaning.

3) Once you have figured out what is most important to you, write up a few goals that will fit in with this. What would you like to see happening in different areas of your life: your health, education, friendships, interests… – you will notice that as you achieve your goals you will be motivated and develop a positive outlook on life. Start with small things you would like to achieve and work your way up to bigger goals. Keep a journal of your achievements – when you are feeling down, you may look back on all you have already achieved and be encouraged.

4) Figuring out what is important to you also helps you to prioritise things in your life. How much time will you spend on this activity or that one. It will give you a sense of satisfaction if you are spending the most of your time on things that are important to you. Developing a routine that works for you will help bring order to your life and make it easier to plan your day, week, month or year.

5) You are here for a reason – what are you going to do about the fact that you are here? Think about what your purpose in life may be – no pressure if you are not sure yet, this tends to reveal itself to you as you grow and develop through new experiences, but do keep your eyes open…

6) Negative self-talk will result in you feeling hopeless and helpless – take charge by confronting negative thoughts and replacing them with positive words or sentiments. For example, replace “this is impossible” with “this is hard, but I am going to give it my best shot” or “I will never be able to…” with “it’s a bit difficult to do this now, but in time I will be able to…” or “although I can’t do this anymore, I can learn to do…”

7) Develop an attitude of gratitude – life is incredibly hard, even without a cancer diagnosis, but if you look carefully there is always at least one thing in your day you can be thankful for. It’s often that one thing that we are grateful for that helps carry us through difficult times – keep your eyes peeled and if you need a reminder write things you are thankful for down and stick them where you will see them often.

8) Develop techniques to help manage anxiety or stress:

  • breathing exercises (box breathing technique *| 4-7-8 breathing technique **)
  • meditation (any activity that helps you keep your attention calmly in the present moment – for example, reading an inspirational quote and repeating it to yourself, thinking upon what it means)
  • mindfulness (this means focusing on one activity at a time – being completely “in the moment and present” – your physical self, thoughts and emotions are invested in what is happening right now)

These techniques help combat a sense of overwhelm, and help you to take a one step at a time approach to completing tasks.

9) Take time away from the normal routine when you need it – go sit in a safe spot and enjoy nature, spoil yourself – a small break from routine will be as refreshing as a holiday.

10) Although routine is important, it needn’t be boring – switch things up now and then. Do you like jogging or walking a particular route? Try a new one…

11) Have fun – think back to playful activities you used to enjoy and do them again – learn to laugh at yourself and life, a sense of humour goes a long way towards making hard times bearable:

Visit friends                                                      Listen to music                                Go outdoors

Garden                                                              Go to the country                             Do mental math

Cook                                                                  Needlepoint                                       Sew

Watch sport                                                     Metal sculpture                                 Make pottery

Long talk with my family or friends           Finger painting                                 Swimming

Building blocks                                               Read gardening books                    Airplane models

Write down family history                           Take photos                                       Paint

Play card or board games                             Take up an art craft                         Build a puzzle

Sing Christmas carols                                    Build a sand castle                          Make popcorn strings

Watch birds feed                                            Run with your dog                           Play hopscotch

Fly a kite                                                           Jump rope                                         Sculpt

Walk along the beach                                    Go to the movies                              Yoga

Watch auto racing                                          Learn bonsai                                     Listen to music

Play Frisbee                                                     Dance                                                 Make a new playlist

Go to an art gallery                                        Play Bingo                                         Pinball machines

Cook a new dish                                             Jigsaw puzzles                                  Play golf

Play pool                                                           Spend time in nature                     Feed the fish / ducks

Explore a new store                                       Watch the sun set                            Spa Days

Take a coffee break                                        Woodworking                                  Play miniature golf

Go camping                                                      Pop popcorn                                    Play chess or Checkers

Repair something                                           Go to the zoo                                   Tell someone a joke

Learn a new craft                                           Watch the fire in the fire pit         Play in the surf***

Add your own fun activities…

*Source: Sunnybrook Hospital YouTube video

** Source: Hands on Meditation YouTube video

***Source: Beating the Odds – the Comprehensive Mind Body Oncology Programme for Patients and Families (Dr Mariusz Wirga)

Your Spirituality

1) For many people their faith in a higher power is what grounds them and carries them through difficult times, giving them hope and encouraging them. It allows them see a bigger picture that helps them make sense of what they are experiencing.

2) Explore this if you have not already done so – faith often helps with a sense of purpose and connectedness.

Your Relationships

1) If our relationships are going well we are generally in a better place emotionally. Forgive those who disappoint you – keeping sadness, anger and hurt bottled up uses up valuable energy that should be used to help you heal. It also creates stress in your body. Let things go…

2) Communicate clearly and listen carefully to what others are saying to you. Proper communication involves respect from both sides and avoids unnecessary misunderstandings.

3) Reach out for support – human beings are by nature relational creatures and we thrive when we connect with others. Try not to isolate yourself, and take time to connect with those who make you feel appreciated and understood.

4) Volunteer – when we do things for others in need our own difficulties cease to be centre stage. We appreciate that life is hard and that we are not the only ones struggling. It is tremendously satisfying and rewarding to help others.

5) Hug a pet – animals provide unconditional love. Snuggling with your pet can alleviate a lot of stress.

Be Inspired

Read teen and young adult stories of hope and add your own…

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