Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why Support Groups Work … Especially for Teens

A recent article in The Huffington Post about compassion got me thinking about why support groups are so important for teens facing adversity. And, for the purview of this blog in particular, why support groups work so well for teens whose parents have cancer.

In a small study, researchers found that we feel compassion more intensely when we share common ground with that person. “… if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves–even a relatively trivial one–the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly,” wrote researcher and Northeastern University psychology professor David DeStefano, Ph.D., in “The New York Times.”

It follows that compassion comes more naturally when a person can relate to what the victim is feeling from personal experience. He or she has been there.

By the time you’re an adult, a number of life experiences have likely accrued under your belt–unless you’ve been inordinately lucky! You’ve lost loved ones and friends. You’ve probably been very ill, maybe broken some bones. You’ve experienced heartbreak and hardship alike. So wouldn’t it follow that the older you get, and the more life experiences you’ve had, the easier it is for you to relate to and feel compassion for others?

If there’s any credence to my theory, then that leaves the teenager trying to feel or elicit compassion in a tough spot. They probably lack the life experiences that come with age.

If you’re 15 years old and your friend tells you their mom has breast cancer, it’s unlikely that you have had a similar experience that allows you to really understand what your friend is feeling. And if you’re the teen whose mom has cancer, you kind of know that your friend has no idea, and maybe feel like they can’t relate to you like you need them to. Everything they say will, in the word of pre-Young Adult author J.D. Salinger, seem phony.

That’s why it’s so important for teens to find other teens who can relate because they actually have a parent who has cancer, too. I have witnessed the deep relief and giddiness that comes when a teen finds another teen like them at Camp Kesem, a network of camps across the country where every camper has a parent with cancer. Finally, these teens no longer feel as though they’re surrounded by misunderstanding. What a relief!

It’s for these reasons that it’s so important for teens facing a parent’s cancer to find support groups to plug into–or, with the help of their parents, to try and create them if none exist. Online communities and forums provide another option in the absence of these groups, too.

I wish I would have sought out a support group when my mom had breast cancer so that when I shared my thoughts and fears and ended my sentences with “you know?”, my confidants could have nodded and truly meant it.




A Bride with Brain Cancer

I just came across this Huffington Post article about a couple who recently got married in the midst of the bride’s brain cancer. Mari Mckinstry was diagnosed with brain cancer several years ago, and just a couple of weeks before the wedding had to have another surgery that left her unable to walk.

I’m sure it was with incredible determination that she conditioned her body to walk again in time to make it down the aisle on her own two feet to wed Nathan Lazur.

When you hear often about husbands leaving their wives when they receive a diagnosis of a serious disease like cancer, it’s incredibly reassuring to hear about couples like this. Hopefully, learning about strong and supportive couples like this can reassure teens that relationships can survive cancer, and also demonstrate the importance of having support–be it from family, friends and/or a romantic partner.



Blog Post Number One

Hi folks!

Well, over a year ago when we first published our book and made a website, we were gung-ho about creating a blog where we could share thoughts, info and stories relating to the topic of teens whose parents have cancer–and cancer in general.

Many moons later, here is blog post number one on our brand new site. We can’t wait to use this forum to share these reflections, exhibit guest bloggers and connect with readers.

Read on!