My hat is off to all young people having to rebuild their lives after cancer and other serious traumas. This includes me! I was a 28-year-old single mom with three sons when I found myself in hospital after being in a coma for several weeks. My life, as it had been, shattered.
Thank God for young people’s very youth. This makes suffering trauma at this age especially tragic but also makes it possible for them to survive. I so appreciate the determination and “can do” (or “fuck you”?) attitude that seems to come with youth.
When I was lying in my hospital bed, unable to move, I was told that “the perfect age” (what wording!) for serious trauma was between the ages of 22 and 32. Just what I needed to hear! I was 28 at the time. Apparently young people’s cell-age is mature but still young “enough.” This makes them resilient and the best candidates to heal.
A few years ago (age 49) I had a minor trauma which brought back some of my earlier symptoms and from which I still have not recovered (three years later). I feel older and tired and “things” seem slower generally. So, even though it is hard to rebuild your life at any age, I really appreciated the possibilities that being young presented to me.
I still feel “young enough” and question “how on earth can this happen again?” I don’t believe in coincidence and I’m absolutely sure there is a reason for everything that happens in life–we just may not be aware of it yet. I am also quietly grateful that it’s not one of my kids or grandkids–or anyone younger–who is in my shoes.
Perhaps because most young adults are busy building their lives for the first time, there are few support groups to connect young cancer “graduates.” One of the great website is Baldylocks for “young people who have overcome cancer.” Check out the Baldylocks blog and her rant–I think you’ll enjoy her! And, difficult as it is sometimes, every day of life is for enjoying. Somehow.
I love the vision of Young Adult Cancer Canada’s website: “To eliminate the isolation for young adults with cancer (in Canada) by providing inspiration, information and support.” Great! It’s worth searching hard and finding a support group because it’s one of most helpful things you can do to heal. There was no Internet when I was recovering in the hospital. Now that I’m housebound much of the time again, I have discovered how incredibly wonderful the Internet is and the community it provides. I can’t imagine life without it.
If you can’t find a support group, there are virtual support groups aplenty. Or if you want something a little different or more than what’s offered on typical blogs, start your own! Blog to your heart’s content. Baldylocks has voiced what cancer has meant to her in a brilliant “cancer-sucks” rant. There’s been no stopping her since she started using her Mac laptop! She fell so in love with it that I was jealous! Eventually I bought one; they are even warm and make great bed-partners! Seriously, the most useful thing you can get for someone undergoing cancer–especially if they’re young and computer savvy–is a laptop computer. It makes such a difference to the life of someone who suddenly finds themselves in hospital. There are zillions of things you can do if you have your own laptop and life can become meaningful again way sooner.
Connecting with people going through the same ordeal as you really helps. Don’t underestimate it! These people will almost certainly have heard of the issues that are bothering you and they will be able to share ways they have found to deal with them. Just to be able to talk about them is a great help. I don’t know about you, but I had to be so careful not to “bore”–or worse still, lose–friends who were important to me but who just didn’t “get it” or have the patience or understanding to stay with you through life-changing trauma. This suddenly-being-plunged-into-a-whole-unwelcome and-awful-world can be totally consuming. Because I wanted to be sure of keeping my friends, I had to be careful not to over-expose any one of them to the world I found myself in. They could only take so much.
Do yourself the biggest favour: Connect with a support group today, online or in your hometown. I’ve seen firsthand so many times how much difference it makes. Every time. Groups online can be anywhere in the world. They’re also available 24/7 and of all the people in the whole world, there’s bound to be someone you bond with! There were days when my friend was at her wits end and one of her friends were always online, either in New Zealand, England, Boston or Vancouver. A funny comment or a heartfelt good wish, often from a stranger who’s in the same boat as she was, would cheer her to no end and help her face stressful doctors appointments, tests, and examinations.
For me it was pure magic too: I knew how badly she needed contact and it was such a relief to know that someone was there for her when I had my own job and family to deal with.
Chemotherapy and “chemobrain” cause many symptoms similar to stroke and brain injury. The thought of anyone having to go through the same loneliness that I felt is what prompted me to create ReBuildingYou. We all need every bit of help we can get to rebuild after cancer as well as after any other serious physical trauma! I look forward to hearing from you!
With a hug, Julie