By Elizabeth Fedrick, PhD, LPC

It started out as any ordinary day. As usual, my alarm woke me out of a deep sleep (way too early I might add), I reluctantly rolled out of bed, showered, and headed off to school. I tried to stay awake in first period, grumbled to the kid next to me about the extra math homework, and laughed with my friends during lunch about the meme my crush had posted on Instagram. I headed back home after a long day and walked through the front door, threw my backpack in my bedroom, and headed into the kitchen for a snack… just as I do, every day. And yet, in that moment, as I walked into the kitchen, I could sense something was seriously off. My parents were both home and had been waiting for me at the kitchen table. My mom said she needed to talk to me and motioned for me to sit down. But, why? What’s going on? This is just an ordinary day… I just wanted to get my snack. And then she said it, those horrible, haunting, unbearable words, “I have breast cancer.”

There is nothing that can prepare us for the horrifying news that someone we love has been diagnosed with cancer. This type of news will hit us like a ton of bricks and is extremely hard to accept or even understand. Finding out something this alarming can be very traumatic and overwhelming and can leave us with so many questions. Will she be okay? Will I be okay? Who will take care of us? What will happen if she is not okay? And on and on they go.

Sometimes events this scary and uncertain can lead to feelings of anxiousness, sadness, and even anger. The world we once knew has been completely flipped upside down, and quite frankly it is not fair. So, what do we do? We have a couple choices. The first choice is get sucked into the feelings of sadness and anger and to withdraw from those around us. Obviously, this is not a very good option and will likely lead to even worse feelings of sadness and fear. However, there is another option, and this involves leaning into the people we care about the most. Talking to close friends and family about our hurts, our worries, and yes, even about our anger. We can also use coping skills to help distract our thoughts when we start heading down the dark hole of negative thinking. Coping skills can include watching your favorite show, calling a friend, writing in a journal, listening to music, or asking your mom for a hug. Another option is to ask a parent to find you a counselor or a support group, which would be a safe and supportive place to talk about the situation and how it is affecting you. It is important to know that any emotions you are experiencing are normal and acceptable. There is no need to hide your feelings, to be strong, or to pull away from loved ones. Instead, it is crucial to talk openly about what you are experiencing with someone safe and allow friends and family to provide you with love and support during this time.