Family Dynamics, Dating and Fertility
A Lymphoma diagnosis may affect patients’ attempts to establish independence from their parents, find a life partner, and raise a family. Each relationship will be affected differently. Some relationships will strengthen, while others may become strained. Although family support and unity are important, the various perspectives and expectations that family members have may contribute to different forms of stress. A professional counselor may be helpful for those who find it difficult to express their feelings with their family members.
Following a lymphoma diagnosis, adolescents and young adults (AYAs) may find it necessary or comforting to return home to live with their parents. Moving in with parents or another family member may feel like giving up newly found independence, and some AYAs find their parents become overprotective or try to take charge. Remember that it is natural for parents to want to protect and take care of their children. It is also important to remember that parents are dealing with their own emotions, as well as those of their other family members.
Although talking to parents may be difficult, it is important for AYAs to keep an open line of communication. Parents can often help with a range of challenges, both practical and emotional, at home and in the hospital.
Dating and developing new relationships can be challenging for AYAs dealing with lymphoma. Many struggle with decisions about when to reveal their health histories and how to discuss the impact that their long-term survival or ability to have children may have on the relationship. Deciding when to tell someone about a lymphoma diagnosis is a personal choice. The right time to share this information will differ for each person, but considering these situations and implications in advance and determining how to handle them can help ease any fears and tensions.
Young adults typically do not expect a spouse or partner to face a life-threatening illness. Frequently, a lymphoma diagnosis means changes in the couple’s intimacy, parenting, and plans for the future, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each partner. This can be overwhelming for both partners, who may experience sadness, anxiety, depression, or anger.
Professional counseling may be beneficial for couples whose relationships become strained after a lymphoma diagnosis. For others, facing the challenges of cancer together can strengthen a couple’s relationship.
Now that so many cancers diagnosed in AYAs are curable, there is more focus on the effects that cancer treatment may have on fertility and preserving patients’ ability to have children.
While fertility may return following treatment, it is important to prepare for the possibility of permanent infertility.
Fertility issues should be discussed with the healthcare team at the time of diagnosis because AYAs can take steps to preserve their fertility before their lymphoma treatment begins. It is important to note that children born to cancer survivors are not at higher risk for birth defects or cancer due to cancer treatment compared with the general population.
The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) Adolescent and Young Adult Lymphoma initiative is supported by Founding Sponsor The Paul Foundation.