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How to manage your return to school or study after cancer


Getting back into the swing of school, TAFE or University after you've finished your cancer treatment can be exciting, yet it might also make you a little nervous. But these are important parts of your life, and they can help you create a "new normal" after cancer. Here's how to make returning to school or study after cancer treatment easier and more comfortable

Facing Your Feelings: 

Returning to school or starting a new course after cancer treatment can make anyone feel a bit nervous, especially if you're worried about how people will react to any physical changes you've gone through. Here are some steps to make this journey smoother: 

1. Talk to Someone You Trust:  
Ask someone to let your school know about your cancer journey (or support you to do this yourself). This could a parent, a friend, or a staff member you are working with from Canteen/another service. That way, your school can offer you the support you need. 

2. Addressing Awkward Moments:  
Be ready for your friends and classmates to act a little differently at first. They might not know what to say or do around you. You can make things easier by telling them that you're still the same person, and you just want to be treated like always. Encourage them to ask questions if they're curious; or you can send them a link to one of our ebooks

3. Reconnect with Friends: 
If you're worried about how your friends will react, try to catch up with them before you go back to school. Invite them over or plan a fun outing. Spending time together can help rebuild your friendships and make your return to school less intimidating. 

4. Friendly Faces: 
On your first day back, arrange to have a friend meet you and walk in with you. This way, you won't feel like all eyes are on you, and it can make your return to school less scary. 

Setting Realistic Goals: 

When you return to school or start a new course, it's important to set realistic expectations for yourself. You might want to jump right back into your studies and catch up on what you missed, but it's okay if your grades aren't as high as they used to be. There could be various reasons for this, like missing a lot of school, or dealing with the effects of cancer treatment (including fatigue). 

If you find it hard to concentrate or remember things, don't hesitate to talk to your teachers, parents, or reach out to a counsellor on Connect for help. 

For those in Year 11 or 12, or at TAFE/uni, consider talking to your teachers or school counsellor about getting some extra help, often known as "special considerations." This might be extensions, extra time, or 1:1 support. Many students get it for different reasons, and you don't have to tell everyone about it. Your health is the most important thing right now, and it's okay to make adjustments to make things easier for you. 

Your Health Comes First: 

Returning to university or TAFE might be a bit challenging because you could still be feeling tired or find it hard to focus. Don't worry too much. Your studies can wait until you're feeling better, if that’s what works best for you. Your health is the top priority at this time, and both you and your family might need to adjust your expectations for now. 

Seeking Support:

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. Many other young people have faced similar challenges. Reach out to your peers on Connect to get more tips and advice on how to manage your return to school or study after cancer (there’s lots of wisdom in the Discussions!). 

 Embracing your education during, or after going through cancer, is a big step toward creating your "new normal." While it may have its challenges, with the right support and mindset, and time, you can reach your goals and move forward confidently. 

By Jane H, Education and Career Service Team Leader, Canteen Australia