Coping with cancer as a teen

May 1, 2012

From the April 2012 NASW News’ Social Work in the Public Eye: Being diagnosed with cancer at any age can be traumatizing, but getting diagnosed when going through the pressures of being a teenager is another story.

Alexis Reilly

This is what happened to NASW member Alexis Reilly, according to “The Rundown” a PBS Newshour blog.

Reilly, 22, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma toward the end of her freshman year of high school. The experience of going through chemotherapy and radiation is not what Reilly takes away with her, the article says, although she, of course, remembers the details. What stuck with her the most were her memories of the loneliness she had to endure, she says.

Reilly only saw her social worker twice during the ordeal, and noted the lack of resources available to help people in her age group mentally cope with cancer.

“Cancer as a teenager is not like cancer as a kid, where a lot of times you don’t even remember much of the treatment when it’s all over. As a teenager, I knew exactly what was going on, but I wasn’t really old enough to deal with it myself,” she says. “I was lucky to have a lot of friends and family, but we could have really used the extra support.”

Reilly is now a social work graduate student, and has been inspired by her own experiences to one day provide teens with the help they need to cope with situations similar to hers.

Reilly’s motives are part of a larger movement led by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who to provide treatment directly tailored for the needs of adolescents who are diagnosed with cancer.