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Heather Jose: Talking with Teens About Cancer

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I spent a little time in high school yesterday. My husband teaches health and he asked me to talk to his kids about cancer. He does a unit on diseases, giving them a brief overview of many diseases. After that I come in. I've been doing this for years now and every time I hope it makes a difference. The goal is to help them understand what it is really like to have cancer and to let them ask questions.

Teenagers ask great questions. They ask about things that worry them, about how things work, and about emotional issues. Yesterday one of the girls was concerned that I passed the cancer on to my daughter as the tumor was growing right along with my pregnancy. One the guys wanted to know if it hurts to have cancer.

I am thankful for the opportunity to talk with these kids. After I share my story we spend a lot of time on how they could help someone else that has cancer. We also talk about how important it is for them to be aware of changes in their own bodies. It is a hard message for the invincible years of youth, but one that is important.

The most important thing that I want these kids to hear is that they can make a difference if they were to have cancer. Doctors have a great amount of knowledge, but they cannot tell us how long we have to live. Oftentimes in hearing the prediction people live up to it. I chose to flip those predictions around and I believe that I can do something every day to kill cancer. That what teenagers to know, that they can make a difference. So can you.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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