Real-life advice from real-life teens designed to help teens live with a parent who is fighting cancer
One million American teenagers live with a parent who is fighting cancer. It's a hard blow for those already navigating high school, preparing for college, and becoming increasingly independent.
Author Maya Silver was 15 when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She and her dad, Marc, have combined their family's personal experience with advice from dozens of medical professionals and real stories from 100 teens-all going through the same thing Maya did.
In a highly designed, engaging style, this book gives practical guidance that includes:
- How to talk about the diagnosis (and what does diagnosis even mean, anyway?)
- The best outlets for stress (punching a wall is not a great one, but should it happen, there are instructions for a patch job)
- How to deal with friends (especially one the ones with 'pity eyes')
- Whether to tell the teachers and guidance counselors and what they should know (how not to get embarrassed in class)
- What happens in a therapy session and how to find a support group if you want one
A special section for parents also gives tips on strategies for sharing the news, making sure your child doesn't become the parent, what to do if the outlook is grim, and tips for how to live life after cancer.
My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks allows teens to see that they are not alone. That no matter how rough things get, they will get through this difficult time. That everything they're feeling is ok. Essays from Gilda Radner's "Gilda's Club" annual contest are an especially poignant and moving testimony of how other teens dealt with their family's situation.
About the Author
Marc Silver is the author of Breast Cancer Husband. He is currently deputy editor for text at National Geographic magazine and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Maya Silver lives in Crested Butte, CO, where she works at the Office for Resource Efficiency. She won the Diane Vreuls Fiction Prize at Oberlin College in 2008 and has contributed to U.S. News & World Report and Washington Post Express.
Read an Excerpt
From the Introduction:
We hope that the voices in this book create a community of support to give you strength as you deal with your parent's cancer. Because if you can learn from the 20/20 hindsight and mistakes of others who've been there, you'll be better prepared to handle the situations you will encounter.
A parent's cancer is uncharted territory, and the uncertainty about what's happening and what's next can be nerve-racking. "Among the things I wish I was told with more clarity is: here's what your mom's going to be going through, here's what you need to do, what you need to be aware of..." said Aaron, who was a teen when his mom had breast cancer. This book doesn't have all the answers, but it will provide you with an idea of what might be going on-and how to get the information you need if your parents aren't good communicators.
One of the most important things we learned from interviewing so many teensand one of the themes of this guideis that everyone deals with their parent's cancer differently. Some people cope just fine. Others have a very hard time. A lot depends on the nature of the diagnosis. Is your parent facing a cancer that has a good treatment success rate? Or is the cancer a difficult one to treat?
Your reaction also depends on you. Personalities differ. Some teens want lots and lots of information. Others want the bare minimum. Some worry a great deal. Others feel confident that everything will be okay. Some lose their focus at school and see grades slip. Others hyper-focus on keeping grades up. Some want to talk about it all. Others don't. And that's okay.
One thing we can all agree on, though, is that cancer sucks. For everyone involved. We hope this book will help you cope in the months and years ahead.
As hard as times may get, you will make it through. Take it from Bailee Richardson, who was twelve when her mom was diagnosed: "Stay strong. Everything's going to work itself out in the end. Don't ever let it get the best of you."
Finally, here are two rules for this book:
Rule 1: Teens, don't feel guilty. You have your own way of coping, and you don't have to behave like any other teen in this book.
Rule 2: Parents, do not use the book to make your teen talk if he or she doesn't want to talk.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 THE NEWS
1.1 A Hunch
1.2 Why Your Parents Told You the Way They Did
1.3 Why You Reacted the Way You Did
1.4 A Charged Word
Chapter 2 CANCER 101
2.1 The Big Question Marks
2.2 Treatments and Their Side Effects
2.3 The Cure: Why Isn't There One Yet?
2.4 True or False
2.5 Tell Me More!
Chapter 3 LET'S TALK: HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY COMMUNICATION LINES WIDE OPEN
3.1 How Much Do You Want to Know?
3.2 What If You're Out of the Loop?
3.3 Reality Check: How Far in the Know Can You Go?
3.4 How to Keep Talking...Even If It's in Writing
Chapter 4 HOW THINGS WILL CHANGE DURING CANCER
4.1 Teenage Change Is Normal!
4.2 Cancer Sneaking Up on You
4.3 Changes to Expect
4.4 Changes in Your Parent
Chapter 5 PARENTIFICATION
5.1 How It Happens
5.2 Catching a Break
5.3 Silence Isn't Golden
5.4 The Big Picture
Chapter 6 DEALING WITH STRESS
6.1 How to Beat the Cancer Blues
6.2 Exploring the Options
Chapter 7 RISKY BUSINESS
7.1 Former Bad Boys: Gary and Jose Turn It Around
7.2 Former Bad Girls: True Confessions
Chapter 8 THE POWER (AND THE LIMITS) OF OPTIMISM AND FAITH
8.1 Think Positive
8.2 Faith and Spirituality
Chapter 9 THE BENEFIT OF FRIENDS
9.1 What You Do (and Don't) Want from Your Friends
9.2 Girls Are from Mercury, Boys Are from Neptune
9.3 Accepting Help
9.4 Have Fun with Your Friends If You Can
9.5 But Can They Still Come Over?
9.6 Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and More
9.7 Dealing with Friend Problems
9.8 New Friends
Chapter 10 SCHOOL DAZE
10.1 School = More Stress or a Place to Escape?
10.2 To Announce or Not to Announce
10.3 Telling the School
10.4 How the School Can Help
10.5 Dilemmas, Dilemmas
10.6 Keeping Grades Up
10.7 The Need to Achieve
10.8 Pulling a Bueller
Chapter 11 SEEKING SUPPORT
11.1 The Adult Who Knows You
11.2 Seeing a Therapist
11.3 Group Support
Chapter 12 FACING A DIRE PROGNOSIS
12.1 Facing the News
12.2 How Long Do We Have?
12.3 When the Bad News Isn't All Bad
12.4 Finding Hope When Things Seem Hopeless
12.5 Living for the Moment
12.6 A Different Kind of Hope
12.7 What If You Feel Closer to the Parent with Cancer?
12.9 Making Memories
Chapter 13 LOSING A PARENT TO CANCER
13.1 A Dictionary of Emotions
13.2 Mourning Doesn't Come with an Expiration Date
13.3 All Kinds of Questions
13.4 Life Goes On
13.5 Dealing with Your Emotions
13.6 School Can Be a Comfort...or a Pain
13.7 Music Can Make It Better
13.8 Staying Connected
Chapter 14 THE NEW NORMAL: LIFE AFTER CANCER
14.1 What Happens Now?
14.2 New Normal Hiccups and Surprises
14.3 Struggling in the Aftermath
14.4 Becoming an Activist
14.5 Same Old You
14.6 Silver Linings
Appendix A THE CAMP FOR KIDS COPING WITH A PARENT'S CANCER
Appendix B IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Appendix C THE PARENTS' GUIDE
Appendix D RESOURCES
About the Authors