Returning to School after a Cancer Diagnosis? Ask for Help!

Written by: Tulsi Kapadia

The transition to return to school can be exceptionally difficult after a long period of cancer treatment. I experienced this firsthand. I was diagnosed with cancer early in Grade 7, which caused me to miss eight of the ten months in that school year and much of the next because I was still on active treatment. It was challenging to manage my health and academics simultaneously, but I found that there were a few things that made school a bit easier.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t like to get “special treatment.” However, it is warranted sometimes and I recommend you try doing everything you can to make your school life less difficult. Here are some of my tips to make the transition easier, especially if you’re in middle school or high school.

Count on your friends

One thing I found very challenging after my return to school was my social life. Before diagnosis, my main way of socializing was with friends at school. But when I returned to the classroom the following year, I hardly knew anyone. I requested the school transfer one of my close friends into my class which made the school year significantly more manageable for me. I had someone I could talk with; he introduced me to other people which helped me build my social skills. Also, if I ever fell behind on schoolwork, I could rely on my friend to catch me up with anything I missed. Having that one friend can be a huge help socially and academically, both of which I really appreciated back then.

Get support from your teachers 

Another incredibly useful support is to have understanding teachers who are willing to accommodate you regarding tests and assignments. This means taking the time to explain your diagnosis and any related issues you may still be experiencing. When your teachers are informed and willing to support you, this allows you to focus on your health if there are times when you don’t feel too great. The biggest thing about support from teachers is not to be afraid of asking for extensions when you need the extra time. If you come across a teacher who does not understand your situation, it would be best to speak with a guidance counsellor or the principal to see if they can help you get the accommodations you need.

Build strength by asking for help

The bottom line is that it’s okay to ask for help or speak up if you have an idea for a way to make your transition back to school easier. It’s an exciting and challenging time and some people will understand that and support you. Remember, asking for help is a strength, not a weakness!

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