“You slowly adapt to the point that your former life becomes kind of unrecognizable... It is all so different now.” -Teva
Somehow, we find ways to adapt and keep living and thriving, despite facing challenges every day. How do we find fulfillment in our daily routines? How do we set goals and define success? How do we adapt to ever-changing financial, educational, and work lives?
Advice from Health Care Providers
Take time to examine your personal identity. Are you a good student? A mother? A lawyer? A jokester? A rebel? Maintaining this sense of identity is difficult during treatment and as you may lose some of your independence. Now is a time to be creative… How can you maintain your identity while confronting your illness and changing health? Instead of a student, you may become a teacher – educating others on what your experience has been like. Your identify as a mother may be changed from being the one that is hands-on and doing the day-to-day to one that provides constant comfort and a listening ear. The lawyer may find a way to work part-time, the jokester may continue to play fun pranks on the nursing staff, the rebel may get a tattoo that defines their experience. Finding ways to redefine and rediscover new parts of your identity can be a way to cope with the inevitable shifts that come with advancing disease. Additionally, there are multiple facets to your identity. Shifts in the relative importance of these facets are also inevitable. This may provide new opportunities to find things that excite and inspire you and may become important parts of your identity. Some individuals create a “Bucket List” of experiences. These may change over time and during your illness and may need to be adapted to your changing health status. Maintain a broad approach and flexible attitude and include people that are important to you in the creation of this list. This list may not be static, it can be ever-changing with things added to and removed over time.
Spirituality and religiosity
Some teens and young adults find their religious or spiritual beliefs to be a support for them throughout their cancer diagnosis and treatments. Still, others may question previously held beliefs when contemplating the meaning and cause of the cancer diagnosis. Questions such as “why did this happen?” or “did something I do cause this?” may be contemplated by individuals facing cancer. Other questions related to the potential for afterlife may be more common when nearing the end of life. Similarly, friends and family members may also find support and solace, or potential distress and isolation, when considering their own religious and spiritual beliefs in the setting of your illness. Mismatched support styles may lead to conflict. For example, if you are questioning your previously held religious beliefs and the presence of an afterlife and your spouse or parent is finding support in prayer and closer spiritual guidance, conflicts may arise. Being open and clear about what questions you are contemplating, both big and small, with your loved ones may help to relieve distress and reduce conflict. Also, being able to listen to others as they ask questions or express beliefs without judgment or dismissal may improve your ability to receive support from others.