The Fault in our Stars

The Fault In Their Stars: How Prepared Are YOU for Teenage Cancer?

Unless you’ve walked in those shoes, it’s hard to imagine how you would react if your teenage son or daughter was stricken with terminal cancer.

The movie “The Fault In Their Stars,” a cinematic release popular with teen girls and young women has, so far, grossed almost $120M (USD)*, and is a story about teenage love discovered under tragic circumstances.

More importantly, though, it’s a story about how to survive, how to live after you’ve survived (or someone you love has died), and how to prepare for death while you’re still alive.

So much of how people react to the news they have cancer depends on their personality, the reactions of family, carers and friends, and the different types and stages of cancer.

In the film, the protagonist, 16 year-­‐old Hazel Lancaster, is presented as having a strong exterior, although her sarcasm and limited social interaction reflects the constant reminders that her illness is not just her own, but is something shared with her parents.

In particular, Hazel’s mother constantly displays her distress, going so far as to tell her daughter it’s okay to give up on living with the pain, before embarking on a process of self-­‐torture, declaring herself a bad mother.

“Of course, parents will be upset news their child has a terminal illness, but how they react can be either positive or very damaging to the teen sufferer,” says Maria Mercuri, Principal Psychologist at New View Psychology.

“In Hazel’s case, her mother’s behaviour led to her believing that her parents lives would be easier if she were dead. These feelings of frustration and guilt are common teen responses to contracting and coping with cancer.”

What is usual for family and friends is the fluctuation between hope, false optimism, devastation and acceptance, as they watch their loved one struggle with loss that they too must contend with.

“Cancer causes people to display a myriad of beliefs, emotions and behaviours as they try to adjust to loss in their own way and parents need to be mindful not to exacerbate an already different situation.”

10 Strategies For Helping Your Teen Cope With Cancer:

  • Don’t panic! There are many different cancers. Research the one affecting you so that you are informed and feel more in control of your situation.
  • Keep it real. Parents must take an honest, realistic, yet positive approach to each and every challenge to support the teenager. In situations of loss, most people think about those left behind, but it’s a different reality for those people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
  • Listen to each other, talk about feelings and encourage everyone to ask questions.
  • Tell your teen that you love him or her and make sure you stay the same person you’ve always been.
  • Encourage their friends to stay normal too. Encourage social media communication so that your teen doesn’t feel left out or abandoned by his or her friends.
  • Prepare for bumps in the road, but don’t let molehills grow into mountains. Adopt a “that’s very normal” position to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Being organised is super-­‐important. There will be medical appointments to keep, medication to take, and other commitments associated with the cancer. Being organised, and/or encouraging your teen to be organised, will help reduce stress.
  • Be practical. Carry towels and vomit bags with you. If your teen is undergoing chemotherapy, nausea and being sick are common side effects of the treatment.
  • Worry and anxiety can be relieved with open, honest communication. Keep each other informed. Don’t allow third-­‐party gossip to affect the family dynamic.
  • If needed, get help from a professional counsellor or a support group that works with cancer-­‐affected teens and their families.

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For more information, please contact: Maria Mercuri
Principal Psychologist New View Psychology Email:

(* Source: Box Office Mojo)