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One-third of St. Jude patients are teenagers. Hospital staff members use a variety of methods to help teens embrace and enhance their unique talents while undergoing treatment.
One moment, the teen is invincible—plugged into music and social media, friends and sports, dreams and aspirations.
With three words, that world implodes.
“You have cancer.”
Swept into a whirlwind of back-to-back appointments, a teen can be overwhelmed. Fear and uncertainty creep in like a thief, stealing self-assurance along with hair; severing relationships with peers back home.
At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a team of experts are dedicated to helping teens and young adults cope with that maelstrom of emotions, while increasing their coping skills and decreasing anxiety and stress.
“When teens arrive at St. Jude, there are so many things they’re grieving,” says Jaime Moran, a St. Jude Child Life specialist who works exclusively with teenagers and young adults. “They’re not just mourning the loss of their health, but they’re leaving behind their friends, their schools, their homes.”
In order to build rapport, Moran and her colleagues offer St. Jude teens the opportunity to express their feelings and cultivate relationships.
“These kids are not just sick; they are experiencing a complete life disruption. That has repercussions for how they think about the world, their faith, who they are, their relationships with other people and what they want out of life.”
“It’s important for them to realize that we’re interested in who they are, and not just their illness,” says Jessika Boles of Child Life. “These kids are not just sick; they are experiencing a complete life disruption. That has repercussions for how they think about the world, their faith, who they are, their relationships with other people and what they want out of life. We help them realize that life isn’t over, but life has changed, and we help them adjust to those changes.”
By supporting teens and encouraging their unique interests, hospital staff members infuse a sense of normalcy and provide a welcome distraction from treatment.
If we can help them hold onto what they love and what they think is fun, it makes the medical and physical aspects more manageable.”
“We want to help them keep up with their passions or their interests,” Moran says. “If we can help them hold onto what they love and what they think is fun, it makes the medical and physical aspects more manageable.”
Abridged from Promise, Autumn 2013