Please help me help my son

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-07-1999
Please help me help my son
Sat, 06-01-2013 - 8:47am

Over the last several years my family has faced enormous life changing events that have been very difficult for my teenage son. I would love some ideas on how I can best help him.

My 18 year old son was diagnosed with cancer at 16,  diagnosed with severe depression at 17 and most recently found out he has a brain disorder which is causing him to have grand mal seizures.  To top it off, we have been under enormous financial pressure with the medical bills piling up, my husband losing his business after becoming disabled and me losing my job when my employer passed away,  To say my household has been stressed is an understatement.

It is hard enough raising an emotional teenager but raising a teenager under such conditions is proving to be unbearable and I'm at a loss on how to help him.  There are two major issues I am trying to deal with.  The first being the loss of his independence.  Because of the seizures, my son has lost his ability to drive, can't lock the bathroom door, can no longer go swimming or ride a bike and can't even take a walk by himself.  He sees all his friends moving on with their lives and becoming adults while he's stuck in the house being babysat by his parents.  This has been extremely difficult for him to handle.

The second issue is girls.  My son wants a girlfriend so bad but because of his health issues, he hasn't been very lucky in this department.  He has no confidence whatsoever and if a girl shows any interest in him at all, his response is that they just feel sorry for him.  He recently had a girl ask him on a date and he was ecstatic but when it came time to actually try and set the date up, she changed her mind and said she didn't want to date afterall. This is not the first time something like this has happened.  They all say he's such a nice guy but they never want to actually go out with him.  Every time this happens it crushes his confidence even more and my heart aches for him. 

I just don't know how to help him any more.  I have asked him to start seeing a therapist again or to find a support group but he refuses to do so and I can't force him because he's 18.  I'm at a loss on how to help him handle all these difficulties he's been faced with.  

I keep telling him things will get better....and they have!  His cancer is in remission! I found a job. I'm trying to remain positive and optimistic even though it hasn't been easy.  

I miss my happy, intelligent, quirky, fun-loving child.  He has become an angry, sad shell of a person and seeing my son so miserable is just killing me.

I woud honestly appreciate any ideas you might have.  


iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000
Sat, 06-01-2013 - 10:04am

Oh my you do have a lot on your plate. That's great that your ds's cancer is in remission. Is he on meds to control the seizures? I can understand your ds's frustration and depression - poor guy has gone through a lot. It does sound like he could benefit from some counselling but as you said - you can't make them go once they hit 18. You might want to talk to someone yourself to get some ideas as to how to help him. Also keep encouraging him to get some help. As far as dating - has he tried any online sites? It seems more and more people are meeting that way these days and I think there are several legitimate sites. Hopefully you'll get some other suggestions here.

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Sun, 06-02-2013 - 7:24am

Had a thought - what about one of those support dogs that can predict when a seizure is coming? Would give him a companion, someone to look after, someone who cares for him that's not a parent (esp to a teen)...not sure how to get one but maybe google that and see if that's an option (if you're willing to consider it)?  Also find out if there are any fun classes he might like to take - get him a distraction, hobby, etc. and maybe he'll meet a soulmate there.  Best of luck.


Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 2:06pm

I am so sorry to read what you're going through!  agree with you that there are normal stresses that come along with being a teenager but the depression + cancer dianosises may be even more burden for him to handle, Are there friends or a support group he can latch onto? Have you reached out to school counselors for advice and resources? FWIW I am dealing with something similar, My 13 yo was recently diagnosed T1D, She's already a pretty strong willed and energetic kid but the dx has become a kind of double edge sword. Your staying positive is a true blessing for your son!



iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Thu, 06-06-2013 - 1:29am

I couldn’t’ get logged in for a few days for whatever reason and maybe some of the others have had that problem.

Dear rbletI,

Gentle hugs and welcome to our corner of the village.

Your situation is one of the most serious I have ever seen in our postings.

I cannot even imagine the stress of having a teen with cancer.  And the other problems just compound that stress. Diamonds are formed under much pressure (stress). 

Sabrtooth, who posts here, may have some good points in dealing with the emotional and depression issues of your son.  I have very limited exposure, but since I read your post I did some thinking and hope this ramble is of some value to you.

For parents, there are very few things, if any that are more painful than watching your child hurt and struggle. 

I’m a rationalizer and a reasoner with our daughters and our SILs who live with us, with the youngest couple having blessed us with the two grandsons and a third baby in the oven.  A little sister would be nice.

On the issue of independence and therapy:  I would try to reason with your son about understanding, adjusting, making accommodations, and coping with things as they are and NOT comparing himself to others.  And this is hard for anybody, especially teens who fear life is passing them by.  But time has a way of reversing things and putting them in proper perspective.  The race often goes to the slow and study moving turtle over the faster rabbit. 

There are amazing stories about all types of disabilities that others have overcome to become shining diamonds.  Many of these folks have written books that bring tears and smiles as you read their road to overcoming adversity.  Most at one time or another were depressed and angry with God, their parents, everyone else, their situation, etcetera.  There are lots of clichés about this, but the bottom line is that you have to play the cards as they are dealt and make the best of life as it is, not as you would wish it were.  Some of these people have even gotten to the position that they are glad for their impairment and feel blessed by it.  If your son is a reader like our youngest SIL, get him some of these books from the local library.

On one of the evening news programs a few months ago was the story of a young man who lost both legs in Iraq or Afghanistan.  His story sounded somewhat like Lieutenant Dan in the movie FORREST GUMP in that he was angry about what he had lost.  He was setting in the hospital rehab center one afternoon when an older man came down the hall.  It was apparent that the older man was walking on artificial limbs.  He stopped, sat down, listened to the younger man, and told him how he felt the same way when he came home without legs from Viet Nam.  He went on to explain how a fellow who lost his legs in a place called Korea had stopped by and left him with this simple thought.  “Stop grieving over what you have lost and be grateful that you have almost everything else left.  You, like me, have all the important things left.”  This is an attitude adjustment situation.

Therapy is a way finding a better way of looking at things.  Therapists and support groups are NOT all equal.  So keep looking until you find one that is right for you; one that helps you along your life journey. (You may even find that “soul mate there.)

Take the medicines if they are of benefit.   They are truly GOD’S gift to those who need them. 

As for the girls issue:   There are few things in life, if any, that are more important than the need for a soul mate to share life with.  The first thing that GOD said was not good in the Garden of Eden was expressed with the words, “It is not good that man should be alone . . . .”    

This is something that occurred in our household that may not be applicable with others, but I will share it with you.   Our youngest SIL, the Butchman, has mild Asperger’s Syndrome, so his mother was very concerned about Butch not getting hurt when our youngest daughter and he were hanging together at the mall, movies, school dances, health club, amusement park, waterpark, etcetera. She also worried that he would never find a soul mate.  His parents worried that he might be named, “the most likely never to marry” by his classmates.   

Asperger’s is on the autistic spectrum and those with it are relationship challenged and can be hurt very easily.  Hubby and I had become good friends with Butch’s parents, so we could discuss these things very openly. 

Growing up, my family lived next door to a couple with no children and they were like a third set of grandparents to my brother, sister, and me.  They were first in line if we were orphaned.  (They got lucky and missed that bullet as my parents are both still living.)   He had Asperger’s so I never feared it because I knew they can be wonderful loving people with quirks.   Don’t we all have quirks?  I wish they had lived long enough to meet the Butchman. 

In the closing days of thirteen, I took my daughter aside and spoke to her about not hurting Butch.   She said something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ll never hurt Butch.  I’m going to marry him.”  I thought, “OK, Mary Hatch, I hope you and George Baily of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE will be very happy together.”    Her words came true, they are one very happy couple, and Butch is one very good daddy, but still quirky as all get out.  They and our older daughter and SIL bonded early.   If we were picking SILs, hubby and I would pick these guys twice a day and fifty times on Sundays.   

By contrast, Hubby and I were so messed up; it took a decade of marriage before we started becoming soul mates because both of us had lots of relationship scars from many prior relationships and a host of other issues.  We could write the most authoritative book on “how to screw up your life.”  But life is good after the long struggle.

(Of the several hundred couples I know, my parents and our daughters and SILs are the only six people who were kinky enough to end up married to the very first person and only person they dated.  My parents just knocked off anniversary #52 and are hoping to make the 100th anniversary.)

The application I would make to your son’s situation is this:  I would talk to your son and explain that very few people find that soul mate early on.  Most have to hunt around for years, even decades, to find “THE ONE.”   It’s a struggle for most everybody, with lots of pain along the way.   So son, hang loose, get the rest of your life together, get those coping skills down, and chances are love will find you—get ready.

I would not share with an eighteen year old that it might take a decade or more as that is forever away for them.  We know it is day after tomorrow.

As for those dates that don’t happen, shake it off and think something like, “That girl does not know what she just lost out on. Poor kid.” 

There is a saying, “Attitude is everything, so pick a good one.” 

Hope this helps some.