How adolescents live with leukemia

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Adolescence is a time of change and conflict as the individual seeks to find his identity and establish his independence. If the teenager also has a life-threatening illness, such as leukemia, the problems encountered are even more complicated. With guidance and support, however, these teenagers can continue the developmental tasks of adolescence. Helping these teenagers to find appropriate methods of coping and adaptation begins at the time of diagnosis. Trust is established when the adolescent receives honest, accurate information, with stress on the hopeful aspects of therapy. Support must be given as the teenager seeks appropriate ways to maintain peer acceptance. Denial must be recognized as an acceptable method of coping, particularly during periods of remission. Independence must be encouraged throughout the course of the adolescent's illness. These teenagers are living with, not dying of, cancer, and we must direct our efforts towards helping them to live with their disease and grow toward maturity.

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