One of the things resonates for me most about the CanTeen philosophy is the idea of empowering young people. Yet, often within the medical model, many people, not just young people who feel disempowered and are not sure how to make a change. For instance, when people are in hospital, much of their control and choice gets taken away from them, similarly when parents or siblings of young people are diagnosed there is often information which doesn’t get to them from the doctors, or even sometimes their parents. Mostly this is done with good intention, and trying not to ‘freak people out’, but more often then not it is unhelpful.
So, for this week’s blog I thought I would suggest some things which young people I have seen over the years have found helpful and allowed them to feel empowered about decisions.
- If you are the patient and are in hospital, it is ok to ask what’s going on! Most of the time when I ask young people what the plan for them is, or what’s happening they seem to be a bit lost. When you are newly diagnosed, we hit you with tonnes of information, which will include a plan about your treatment. When you are in that space though, you may not process that, so its ok, and expected that you will ask lots of questions about what the plan is. In some centres they will give you a written plan, but even so, if you don’t understand something, ask! Doctors and nurses are used to people asking lots of questions, and when you get the answer then you can do something with it!
- When it’s someone else in your family that has cancer, usually people feel like they are being kept in the dark by what’s happening. It’s very reasonable for you to want to know what’s happening, so that you can manage the information. Our brains are hardwired to head to the worst-case scenario, so without any information it’s hard to not worry about what’s happening. It’s sometimes helpful to let the people who have the information (mum, dad, doctors, nurses etc) know that you would like to have the information. Often, if you don’t ask, people may assume that you don’t want to know.
- When you have information, you are able to make good decisions. (Note, I didn’t say easy decisions). If you know about treatments, medical situations and options, then it makes it easier for you to make a decision about what to do next. Some of these might be smaller, like whether you should go to a party or not, and some may be bigger, whether treatment is a good option etc.
- Often young people will tell me that they feel like they have no choices in the medical model, but sometimes with some help you are able to express your concerns and get what you want or need at the time. Sometimes, working with a counsellor or another person helps you think out what it is that you need, and they may be able to help you gain a plan of how to get it. Social workers and Psychologists in hospitals or health settings are usually quite good at helping to advocate for what you need, whether that’s with your parents, medical staff or
- Put a structure and plan in place to help you manage. It can be small things you plan, or bigger picture stuff, but if you have a plan you feel more in control, even if you don’t use it!
If you are finding these things difficult to do, sometimes talking with a counsellor, teacher or other important person in your life will help to guide you on where you need to head, or what you could do to change the situation you are in.