Parenting a child who's away at college following treatment

My daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma this past April, completed chemo and radiation over 4 months, and barely 2 months ago. She's now living away at college, about an hour away from home, but she's been having all sorts of unusual symptoms, like tiredness, various body aches and pains, and, most recently, cuts and soreness under her arms and around one of her eyes. CAT scan, xray, and lab work last month showed that all is clear. She seems to not be eating well and just trying to do too many extra curricula's in addition to 6 classes, which she insisted was not going to be alot for her freshman year. She's 17 and I'm trying to give her a bit of space to let her learn to take care of herself, but she has different circumstances than most other students. I imagine that she's trying her best to stay as far away from doctors and medications as she possibly can and I find myself getting very frustrated with her. How do you parent under these circumstances?


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  • 6 classes "not too much"? not anywhere I've gone. 4 is usually considered to be a heavy load. when I started classes after treatment, 2 was more than enough (though master's level coursework is a bit tougher than freshman stuff)

    she's going to have to figure out how to do this on her own. and there's not much you can do about eating well. no college student eats well. even if they eat in the cafeteria every meal, that stuff is still largely junk food. cheap mass produced junk. they're not going to have a menu designed with cancer patients in mind or anything like that. and if she's eating like a typical college student, she's got quite a few meals of nothing but noodles.

    and from my experience in college, that's the time where you learn to back off on the parenting. obviously you're in a different situation than most parents of college students. but that's the point where you hope you taught them well growing up and they start to apply that stuff. the best you can do in this case is make suggestions. if things become desperate I suppose you could withhold money, but the effectiveness of that one would depend on how much you give and how much she relies on it. my parents gave me maybe $20/mo when I was an undergrad. not because I didn't need money, but because I didn't use much. I lived very frugally and could make do on very little. if they withheld that money because I wasn't living up to their expectations, it would not have killed me.
  • Indestructible phase

    My daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma during her sophomore year of college. She was going to school three hours away from home and had to take a semester and a half off to complete her treatment. That in itself was very difficult. She had gotten through the initial initiations of college life, had a great fall semester schedule that she had to leave mid course, and she had the perfect housing arrangement with her friends. As hard as this was for her emotionally, her treatments and the extreme fatigue took over soon enough after we got her home.

    She enrolled in a University that was only 50 minutes from our home after treatment. She was pudgy from the steroids, her hair had grown back enough to look like a brush cut, she got a room in a run down hall dorm with an exchange student that spoke little to no English, and she knew no one. Needless to say I was concerned with her emotional well- being. That first year back to school was CRAZY! She totally felt indestructible and she was SO angry. Surprisingly though, her studies were her safe-haven. I think that may be different for everyone. She met up with a student that had attended her first college and got a room in her co-Ed house the second semester. Lets just say that the house parties at the residence were legendary. As her mom, I was freaking out.

    I had been a very strict, very conservative, protective mother her whole life. I was her major caregiver during her treatments and looked after her psyche as she underwent the emotional turmoils associated with a young adult with cancer. But when she went through this wild stage....i let her go. It was very tough for me, but it turned out to be the best thing for her. It didn't last long and she really needed it psychologically I believe. For what it is worth, I think after being diagnosed as a young adult, who has JUSt started to experience life's freedoms, the survivors need to feel like they can control something. It may be college coursework, it may be food, it may be drinking, it may be exercise.....whatever it may be, with time that original foundation of love, ambition and pride comes back when they are ready.

    I'm so proud of my daughter. She is a survivor. She still gets scanned every 6 months. She graduated from a great University with honors and has nearly completed her Masters Degree and through her current internship has been offered a fabulous job (with excellent health benefits). After giving her the space she needed to take "control",we are closer than I ever could have imagined. I wish you the same and welcome conversations about our experiences as caregivers and parents.
  • Katy is lucky to have such a brave and loving mother. You are a role model for managing this very delicate balance! I hope with of you are doing well. And Nate's advice is sage- words of a warrior. Hoping for peace and good outcomes for Nesali and her daughter.
  • You know, you are right. She has a condition and she is not like other students. If she do nothing about her health, then it will obviously become worst. Here's my advice, just make her stop schooling for a while and focus on her health, then when she gets well, everything will follow. Try to think of the bigger picture.