Youth Cancer

Loss When You Have Cancer

Time, independence, friends... you can lose many things as a result of having cancer - some of them unexpected.

What is loss?

  • Loss is something that changes your world forever.
  • It could be something tangible that you no longer have, like your hair, but it can also be something intangible that you felt, like your future plans.
  • Grief is how you react and eventually adjust to the loss.

You can feel grief for the loss of:


You can never get back all that time you spent away from your regular life. It might feel like there are certain things you should have been doing, and now the chance has passed.


You might have missed out on things that have already happened, like your year 12 formal. Or you might miss out on things that are going to happen in the future, like starting uni together with your friends.


After all the time away, your social networks are probably not the same. You might feel less close to some people that you did before. Sometimes you can recover the closeness. Sometimes you won't be able to.

Self Esteem

This is a common effect of having had cancer. Perhaps you look different, or just feel less sure of yourself after everything that has happened.


Cancer is probably one of, if not the worst thing you have experienced in your life. You may have felt fear, loss and despair for the first time. Your outlook on the world has probably changed.


This could be a loss of mobility, being unable to do certain things on your own, having to rely on family for help, or just not being able to do things like travel or play sport. It could also be the loss of a job or financial independence.


We all have dreams for our future. It doesn't mean they will happen, but no longer having them or needing to adjust them, is still a sad and difficult thing to handle.


Your role in the family, or your circle of friends, or your romantic relationship may have changed. Perhaps you were the joker, or the strong one. It can take time to figure out a new identity; and while you're working on it you might feel lost and purposeless.


Although we often think of routines being boring, there is a comfort to them because they give our lives structure. Your family and personal routines will have changed – from study and work, sports and hobbies, to fighting with your siblings. It's surprising how much you can miss normal, mundane things.

Physical losses

You probably lost your hair at some point, or maybe even had a limb amputated during surgery. These losses are the most visible to yourself and to others. They can be some of the toughest ones to deal with.

Can I get it back?

  • There will never be a complete substitute for the things you have lost. Your hair might grow back, but even then, it might have grown back different to before.
  • The best thing you can do is acknowledge the things you have lost, and allow yourself to grieve for them.
  • Eventually you can take comfort in other things. For instance, you may have missed out on starting uni with all your mates and that's something you'll never get back.
  • But if you start uni later on, you can maybe feel happy that you managed to achieved that goal against the odds and you got there in the end.