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Surviving for Those Who Didn’t - Choose

By Amelia Owen
(Page 2 of 4)

More specifically, studies of daughters of mothers with breast cancer show the girls have more recurrent signs of depression (Brown, et al., 2007 abstract). They struggle with a number of conflicting emotions as they try dealing with their mothers' prognosis and how their world is changed drastically. A study conducted by Stiffler et al. found that often young girls in this situation initially experience denial and fear, followed by an understanding that "the cancer would affect them, their life goals, and activities." Subjects of the same study reported a feeling of intrusion as cancer entered their lives, and they attempted to pay no attention to it by avoiding the "unpleasantness of home, their mothers' illness, the added responsibilities, and missing out on activities…They felt profound loss related to not being able to rely on their mothers, loss of their mothers' companionship, and loss of their mothers' involvement in their everyday activities."

The idea of adolescents in typical circumstances conjures images of raging hormones, unpredictable emotions, daring risk-taking, and other angsts associated with the preteen and teen years. When his or her mother is diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease, one can anticipate these images to be intensified several times over. But that does not have to be the case. The research by Stiffler et al. mentioned earlier also indicates positive results from the tribulation of having a mother diagnosed and treated for cancer. They learned to search for encouraging results from others who had family members with cancer, and some became active in teaching others how to prevent breast cancer as well as taking better care of themselves in order to avoid a future diagnosis of breast cancer. The daughters often took on the role as caregiver for their mothers, keeping their mothers alive, and therefore, losing the egocentrism of adolescence by considering someone else's needs before their own and appreciating the duties once performed by their mothers.

A considerable amount of empirical data supports the ideology that acceptance and adaptation is key to successfully coping with the devastation associated with a cancer diagnosis, particularly a young daughter in relation to her mother's breast cancer diagnosis. It is extremely important to seek assistance to obtain acceptance and adaptation for this life-changing event if it does not come naturally. One may find support from spiritual leaders, family members, friends, teachers, coaches, therapists and counselors, and support groups. Finding a healthy outlet is vital to deal with the stress—journaling, playing an instrument, exercising, volunteering, or discovering new hobbies can help alleviate the strain of caring for or dealing with the illness a loved one.

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