“We have two shoulders because one is for those we care about to lean on and the other is for ourselves.”
Update: learn about Paola’s journey through the STLO Project!
Outranked only by heart disease, cancer is the single most diagnosed chronic disease in the United States. Nearly everyone can account for a time when they were affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, that means that many people will see their family members and loved ones experience a diagnosis. In fact, recent studies suggest that over 500,000 minors are living under the same roof as a parent with cancer. This number doesn’t even include family members of childhood cancer patients.
Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient, it affects everyone around them. Watching someone you care about go through treatment isn’t easy, especially if you’re young. Oftentimes, it can feel like there’s nothing in the world you can possibly do to help them—but that’s not true. The best way you can help a beloved cancer patient is by first helping yourself.
Educate yourself on cancer. Know what is it that’s happening to the person you care about. Learn how you can take care of them and ease their symptoms. Take charge of your own health and know your risks. If you are related to the cancer patient, it’s important that you know what this might mean in the future. Remember that while a loved one’s diagnosis is certainly no indication that you will develop something similar, it’s good to keep tabs on your own health. Rest assured that your loved one will want you to be healthy.
Take care of yourself. Stay strong for your loved one, but don’t bottle up your emotions. We teenagers are guilty of wanting to hide our emotions because “we’re fine” or we simply don’t wish to hurt those around us. However, by hiding our emotions, we hurt both ourselves and everyone around us. Know what is healthy and unhealthy to be feeling during a difficult time in your life. Look to others with similar experiences for advice, and most importantly, find someone to be your shoulder to lean on—whether they may be a teen featured on this website or another loved one. Being supported by others, either directly or indirectly, will make your journey through this challenging time a lot easier.
Born from the experiences of a cancer survivor’s teenage daughter, The Shoulder To Lean On Project strives to encourage teenagers, as well as anyone who needs it, to do just that: help themselves and in exchange, help their loved one too. Through a Stories section, where young loved ones of current or former cancer patients share their stories, a On The Table section, where young people can find quick and delicious recipes with their loved one in mind, and an Education Station, where teenagers can learn about cancer without wading through an endless sea of oncology terminology, this project aims to serve the people that are oftentimes too embarrassed to admit they need help.
The Shoulder To Lean On Project is made entirely by teenagers, for teenagers. It is our goal that by sharing our experiences and spreading knowledge about cancer, we can fight this disease together.
If you take one thing away from this project, it should be that no matter how tough the situation may seem, you are not alone.
“Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter. The one of us who finds the strength to get up first, must help the other.” — Vera Nazarian