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Cancer’s toll: Mother’s day tough without a mum

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This Mother’s Day, youth cancer charity CanTeen reaches out to young Australians aged 12-24 who have been devastated by their mum’s cancer diagnosis.

Research conducted by CanTeen, in collaboration with Sydney University, revealed that a shocking 75% of young people aged 16-24 years who have a parent with cancer display high or very high levels of psychological distress. This compares to just 9% of young people in the general population.

Further research conducted by CanTeen found that the death of a parent is considered an extremely stressful life event for a young person. Losing a parent to cancer can cause great disruption to routines and relationships and contribute to immense feelings of anxiety and isolation that can impact the well-being of a young person in the long-term.

At this time of year, the impact of a mother’s death can be particularly hard to deal with. Bailey was only 14 years old when his mum died from cancer. It threw his world into turmoil as he struggled with feelings of shock, anger, fear and disbelief. “I felt very scared. My emotions were really mixed, like feeling sad and angry. And powerless, because there wasn’t anything I could do to change the situation. I guess just being a family is what I miss most.”

Every year 15,000 young Australians have a parent diagnosed with cancer, which can have a devastating impact on a young person. A cancer diagnosis causes fear and uncertainty and can threaten the security of a young person’s world, leaving them feeling vulnerable, frightened and confused. CanTeen ensures that for any young person dealing with their parent’s cancer diagnosis, or if their parent has died from cancer, there is help available.

“I found out about CanTeen through the counsellor at the hospital,” says Bailey. “It really helped. I met other people who had lost their mum to cancer. Before that I felt like I was the only one.”

CanTeen’s FREE resource book, Now What…? When your parent’s cancer can’t be cured provides age-appropriate information and advice to help a young person effectively work through feelings of shock, anxiety and anticipatory grief, and adjust to the changes in their life.

In addition to its free peer support and recreation programs, CanTeen also provides a specialised free counselling service for young people who have a parent with cancer, or whose parent has died from cancer. Courtesy of a $1.5million grant from nib foundation, CanTeen’s Offspring Support Program offers face-to-face, telephone and online/email counselling for young people aged 12-24 throughoutAustralia.

“The counselling service offers young people a space to grieve in their own way and their own time,” saysElizabethMay, Counsellor. “Because Bereaved Offspring feel like they don’t have a mum or a dad, we work together to find ways to ensure that although their parent is no longer with them they will always have their parent as a part of their lives. We do this by creating artworks and memory boxes, by sharing favourite pieces of music, telling stories and creating interview questions for family members and friends to help learn more about the parts of their loved ones they didn’t get to know. Through growing and maintaining this relationship they can keep this connection strong.”

No matter where a young person is on their cancer journey or how their life has been impacted, CanTeen provides a safe environment where they can learn how to deal with the emotional, physical and practical issues of living with cancer and take back control of their lives.

(Source: Can Teen)

More Information

For more information on cancer, including breast, prostate, kidney and stomach cancer, see Cancer: Overview.
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Posted On: 9 May, 2012
Modified On: 28 August, 2014

Created by: myVMC