NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults
Part 8: Moving beyond treatment
Adjusting to a new normal
Being a cancer survivor adds new layers of complexity
to things like school, career, and personal relationships.
There are often nagging questions about who to tell
about your history, how much they need to know, and
when you should tell them.
Many people also underestimate just how long it can take
to recover from the effects of cancer treatment. Survivors
may take on too much. Friends and family may not
realize their support is still needed. Romantic partners
may have trouble adjusting to sex after cancer.
On the plus side, surviving cancer can give you a whole
new perspective on life and what you want from it. After
facing your own mortality, you may find it’s easier not
to sweat the small stuff, and to take advantage of the
opportunities life brings your way.
Lingering problems with concentration and memory
can be frustrating when trying to get back into the
swing of things at school. If you continue to experience
chemobrain, try cutting back on your course load
and scheduling more time to study and to complete
assignments. If chemobrain or other treatment-related
side effects are interfering with your ability to keep up,
let your doctors know. Neuropsychological testing can
identify your specific limitations, and your doctors can
work with your school to create a plan to compensate for
them as much as possible. You can also talk with your
professors or school counselor about modifying your
schedule and adjusting deadlines.
If you’re facing financial challenges, consider applying
for some of the many scholarships and grants that are
available to students who are cancer survivors, including
the SAMFund for Young Adult Survivors of Cancer (www.
thesamfund.org). You can find a comprehensive listing of
cancer-related scholarships on the Web site FinAid! The
Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid (
Research has shown that cancer survivors are just as
productive in the workplace as employees who haven’t
had cancer, but you may find that some co-workers (and
employers) have their doubts about your ability to work. It’s
even possible that you have some worries about how you’ll
cope when returning to full-time work.
If you were able to keep working during your treatment,
the transition will probably be fairly easy. If you’re moving
into a new job or will be working with people who don’t
know about your illness, keep in mind that you have no
legal obligation to talk about your cancer history unless
it has a direct impact on your work. If you feel that letting
coworkers know you are recovering from cancer treatment
will be helpful, tell them. If you don’t, don’t. The choice is
up to you.
That said, you should always feel free to talk to your
employer if you need to make adjustments at work
because of ongoing side effects. Under Federal law,