Cancer impacts people of all ages, races, and religions, including college students. Roughly 1.8 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer in 2019 alone, meaning about 1 in every 100 college students could face some form of the disease while in school. But a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean having to give up on your dreams of higher education. Numerous resources exist to help students battling or recovering from the disease conquer their academic challenges and achieve their educational goals. This guide connects both students and parents to those resources, and includes detailed information about self-care, legal rights, time management techniques, and how to locate (or create) supportive environments. It also provides key information and insight from a five-time cancer survivor and award-winning cancer coach.
Challenges for College Students with Cancer
There are many tough realities for students dealing with cancer in college. It’s not something anyone can really understand unless they’ve had to face it themselves. In this section, we’ll walk through some of the most common hurdles that college students with cancer often face, including the physical, mental, and emotional side effects and byproducts. This section speaks to the effects felt from most types of cancer treatments today.
Making College Work When You Have Cancer
Now that we’ve explored how cancer can affect you as a college student, it’s time to consider some of the best ways for you to conquer those issues. This next section gives support and solutions that can help you function to the best of your abilities in school. Some of these tips may be the difference between managing your schoolwork or feeling overwhelmed with seemingly insurmountable tasks.
Rights for College Students with Cancer
As a student with cancer, your institution should acknowledge your disease as a type of disability for all school-related intents and purposes. According to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, you have certain protections under law, and you should be afforded reasonable accommodations to help you throughout your duration as a student. Let’s take a closer look at your rights and things you can do to make sure you receive support.
Working with Your Professors
One of your best and most reliable resources on-campus or online is your professors. Many of your instructors will have years of experience teaching at the college level and have taught and accommodated students with disabilities before. Here are some tips for getting the accommodation you need.
- Be sure to talk to your professors about any accommodations you think you may need before the semester starts or immediately at the start.
- You will also need to contact the student services office on-campus that handles student disability cases. That office will send an official notice to all of your professors that documents your case.
- Ask your teachers for some additional help, as needed. Their job is to ensure that all of their students have a fair chance to do their best in class. In this way, many professors will be more than happy to meet with you outside of class or online to give you some extra guidance through course materials.
- One of the primary accommodations requested by students with disabilities is extensions on test-taking times. In these cases, students are simply asking that they have more time to work through an exam, or they request to take the exam in a physical location that better accommodates their disability.
- As a student with cancer, if you are having trouble with fatigue, for example, it would be understandable that you’d request more time to complete exams or homework assignments. Be open with your professors and let them know how you feel. If you begin to experience some kind of new problem or challenge part-way through the semester, contact your professors immediately to make sure the appropriate changes are made to your schedule. Most teachers today will ensure that you get what you need. If they don’t assist you immediately, contact your student affairs office.
How Students with Cancer Can Advocate for Themselves and Get Help
Sometimes one of the hardest parts of getting help is knowing how and where to ask for it. In this section, we offer students with cancer some options and resources so they can advocate for themselves when it comes to receiving support at school.
College & Cancer: Expert Insight
Shariann Tom is a five-time cancer survivor. Her cancer journeys and 20 years of coaching experience inspired her to start a worldwide movement to change the way people experience cancer. In 2010, she was Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Honoree of the Year.
The Cancer Journey Institute (CJI), co-founded by Shariann Tom and Keri Lehmann in 2012, is the first cancer coach training company in the U.S., headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area and the only one approved by the International Coach Federation. CJI’s transformational training programs teach coaches to help people travel cancer with grace and power. Their work has supported thousands of cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers from all over the world. They can be reached at www.thecancerjourney.com
Resources and Tools for Students with Cancer
These online resources will help you find where to get help at your school and in your community. Bear in mind that there are many valuable resources available to you today, most of which are free and open to the public. If you feel that any of your needs are not being met at your school, don’t hesitate to seek additional support outside of your institution.