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The Four C's For Balancing Cancer Treatment And The Classroom

August 02, 2023

You've got notebooks, pens and pencils, an updated wardrobe, a new schedule. And cancer.

Heading back to school with all of the stresses that come with managing a cancer diagnosis is a daunting challenge.

No matter if you're a student or parental guardian of someone in elementary or high school, college, or beyond, proper planning and support can help make it possible to create the right balance between successfully continuing one's studies and undergoing cancer treatment.

Communication: Seeking Support In The Classroom

You don't have change your major to communications, but being an open communicator about your illness is one of the most important steps that students who have cancer can take. To get needed support, make sure teachers, administration, nurses or medical staff, and classmates (if you wish) are informed of your cancer care plan, any anticipated challenges you might be facing, and special accommodations you may need. Chances are they do not know all you are dealing with and will be more likely to offer assistance and understanding if you are able to be more transparent about your situation.

Be sure to communicate your specific needs with trusted school staff, such as a counselor or student services teams. Find out what resources are available and put them to use to help you maintain academic success during treatment. Options such as tutoring, extensions on assignments or exams, or modified assignment requirements may be allowed, enabling students to keep up with studies without being overwhelmed or penalized due to scheduled treatments.

Calendars: Be Realistic With Academic And Treatment Schedules

Cancer treatment can cause your energy level to fluctuate. You may have days where you feel like you can check everything off your school list, and other days when you don't want to get out of bed. It is important to create a realistic schedule that allows time to rest and recover while still focusing on your studies. When you get your syllabus, plan ahead for assignments or exams that may fall on the same day as treatment. Think ahead to the possibility of unexpected health changes that could impact schoolwork and attendance in the classroom.

Make your health a top priority, allocating time for treatments, doctor appointments, and important self-care activities or therapies. Set realistic goals when it comes to your studies and share them with teachers and school administrators. It is okay to ask for help or even take a leave of absence if needed to prioritize your health.

Connections: Use Technology Keep Up With Assignments And Classmates

The technology supporting education in and out of the classroom is vastly different than ten years ago. Technology can be a valuable and flexible learning tool. From online teaching platforms to more accessible educational materials and remote learning, technology is helping students communicate with teachers and classmates even when they can't be there in person.

This extends to making and maintaining connections with classmates who can provide much-needed emotional support and a sense of normalcy and belonging during your cancer treatment.

Celebrate: Small Victories And Big Milestones

You're taking a journey that most of your teachers and classmates cannot imagine. Managing school and your health is not easy. Sometimes it is okay to celebrate even the smallest victory like finishing an assignment, making it to class two weeks in a row, or passing a test. Acknowledge each milestone as it can boost motivation and resilience.

Balancing schoolwork and cancer treatment can be a challenge, but the four C's can help you manage both successfully. Know that you are not alone and your commitment to education while fighting cancer may very well inspire others on their own educational path.


For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.