I heard the term FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, used during my first semester of college. It was described as follows: that fear of missing out on key events that drives students to skip their studying in favor of the parties and fun stuff that is always happening on campus.
I think FOMO takes a similar form after a cancer diagnosis. Fear of “Missing Out” of going to school, proms, parties, and much more is one of the most difficult things to deal with during cancer treatment. However, like prioritizing studying during college, it is crucial for you, as a cancer patient, to prioritize your recovery and wellbeing. If you decide to go to prom or a party when your counts are down, you run the risk of getting an infection that could land you back in the hospital. If you decide to go to school for a whole week and wear yourself out completely, you could make yourself weaker rather than helping yourself maintain what strength you have left. This, in turn, can make you more susceptible to infection. It broke my heart when I got back from my first day of 9th grade and I realized it would be far too tiring for me to go to school every day. A friend of mine, also a teen cancer survivor, was so sad about having to repeat 11th grade because she was not able to go to school or get home tutored for a whole year.
I maintain that, during cancer treatment, you have one key goal – to survive the treatment. Everything else, including parties like prom or going to the mall with friends, should be secondary. I think this constant balancing act between staying on your treatment protocol while wanting a normal life makes up some of the most difficult challenges posed by cancer treatment.
Like many teen cancer patients, I missed out on school time with friends, prom, nights out, etc. But, I beat cancer. I accepted the short term setback of “Missing Out” on time with friends for the long term gain of a productive and happy life. There are so many big sacrifices that you have to make while on treatment. It can be very difficult to accept the sacrifices and stay positive.
That being said, there IS good to be found through your sacrifices. While I had to skip homecoming my sophomore year of high school because of the swine flu outbreak, I had the most amazing end of chemo party a few months later that brought together all my friends and family. While I missed all of 8th, 9th, and half of 10th grade because of my treatment and suppressed immune system, I was able to be taught at home by a wonderful woman from the Howard County Home and Hospital Program, with whom I became good friends. More importantly, that time away from school showed me who my true friends were. It gave me a chance to start fresh and make new, lasting friendships when I returned to school, as a cancer survivor, for my junior year.
All in all, despite the difficult sacrifices of “Missing Out” that must be made during treatment, keep your eye on the ball – surviving treatment, Once you beat your cancer, you will never have to Miss Out again. Just think of it as a short term setback to a long term victory.