This June, in honor of Pride Month, we are partnering with Escape, an organization created to provide a sense of Escape for LGBTQIA+ Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers, to amplify awareness for LGBTQ Cancer Awareness Week.
From June 6-10th, we are teaming up with @escape_ayac for the Second Annual LGBTQ+ Cancer Awareness Week to highlight and bring awareness to the #LGBTQ+ cancer community! RT if you’re ready to learn with us. 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/o22IjqYdRC
— b-present (@bpresentorg) June 6, 2022
LGBTQ+ Cancer Awareness Week
Information on the impact of cancer on the LGBTQIA+ community is limited, and this week (the second week of June) is to highlight the need for comprehensive LGBTQIA+ cancer support services and care. LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and/or Questioning, and Asexual and/or Ally. Adolescents and Young Adults make up the majority of LGBTQIA+ Openly Identifying individuals in the USA.
LGBTQ+ Living With HIV Increase Risk of Cancer
During the early ’80s to ’90s, a whole generation of LGBTQ+ elders was lost due to the lack of support from the US government or institutions that were supposed to help. The LGBTQ+ community had to rely on each other for support, education, and survival during the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The medical trauma continues today as we continue to fight for access to adequate care. For those living with HIV having access to gender-affirming medical care to prevent the risks of developing cancer is critical. Since HIV attacks the immune system, it’s important to detect cancer risks early through regular check-ups and cancer screenings.
We are all connected and must do our part to support each other. Be informed, learn about how we can help each other, and address barriers to medical care.
Grief and Loss Among the LGBTQ+ Cancer Community
Navigating cancer is already hard and can be even more difficult without community support or appropriate care. Support through grief can look different for the LGBTQIA+ cancer community. LGBTQIA+ people experience a loss of community due to community rejection or rejection by friends and family and multiple bereavements, leaving them isolated during a cancer diagnosis.
If you are currently supporting an LGBTQIA+ person grieving the loss of an LGBTQIA+ loved one who has passed from cancer, be sure to validate their feelings and provide a shoulder to cry on. They deserve to feel safe, cared for, and seen fully for their wonderful, authentic self as they process the loss and honor the memory of their loved one.
The Transgender Cancer Community
Transgender youth are being targeted in the United States, as the challenges of accessing gender-affirming care are becoming more and more difficult due to anti-trans legislation being passed nationwide. Insurance companies have been granted authority to choose what is covered in their plans, making treatments or procedures like gender-affirming surgery (not covered by insurance). Cancer preventative care has also been denied to individuals who have had their gender marker removed. While we continue to fight for proper representation and awareness, there is still much that has to be done to change the care given to transgender youth diagnosed with cancer.
Self & Community Care
As an LGBTQIA+ person, self-care may take more intention due to additional stressors like the lack of support, rejection from friends or family, and discrimination from healthcare professionals or institutions. In addition to that, being diagnosed with cancer can change the way an LGBTQIA+ person practices self-care. Like allowing themselves to accept their body can’t physically do what it was able to before cancer.
Community care is a huge component of self-care because, oftentimes, having the right people around us is exactly what is needed. We will all be impacted by cancer at some point in our lives, whether as a patient or a supporter. We must help each other, knowing we will need to lean on others in the future.
Understand what it means to be an LGBTQIA+ patient with cancer
It’s important to learn more about the challenges and health disparities most LGBTQIA+ face due to the lack of knowledge and awareness within the healthcare system for LGBTQIA+ community members. There are many organizations out there like The Fenway Institute, National LGBT Cancer Network, Escape, Queering Cancer, and so many more that have resources available for cancer patients who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Cancer can happen to anyone, and sexual orientation and gender identity should not prevent anyone from getting adequate and appropriate support.
One of the greatest challenges most LGBTQIA+ face is the lack of comfortability, affecting overall experience and health. This community often struggles with sharing personal and vital information for fear of discrimination, trauma related to treatment, lack of treatment due to unpleasant prior experiences, or inadequate/improper health care due to lack of knowledge around the LGBTQIA+ community. Not being appropriately treated or denied access to appropriate screening or check-ups not only increases the inability to treat an LGBTQIA+ patient because of a lack of trust and comfortability but also contributes to cancer patients’ health conditions worsening due to a lack of proper medical care.
Thankfully there is hope, as much is being actively pursued to obtain long-term results that lead to better cancer care for the LGBTQIA+ community from screening, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.
Talking Tips to Help you Avoid the Pitfalls as a Supporter
In cancer conversations, comments intended to express empathy or comfort can backfire when they are dismissive of the person’s situation, choices, decisions, or emotions.
- It’s normal and natural to feel unsure about what to say. The fact that you feel uncertain means you care about your friend’s feelings.
- Avoid commenets that are dismissive of their diagnosis, experience, how they are feeling, or their choices.
- Only offer advice when asked.
- Do your best to be mindful, but don’t over-filter what you say.
- It’s important to own up to your mistakes. Apologize. Learn from it and then move forward. We are stronger together and better when we can learn from each other.
- The best thing you can do is be present and aware of their physical and emotional state
Navigating Cancer with your Friend and Moving Forward Together
Finding out your friend has cancer can be scary and overwhelming but having a shared understanding of what’s ahead is essential so that you can best support your friend during treatment and beyond. Everyone responds differently. Your friend’s support may vary based on many factors: mood, treatment, and care plan. Remember to always respect their privacy.
Connection, support, and normalcy are the things your friend needs from you; learn how your friend wants to be supported. Remain authentic, and remember that the diagnosis has not changed who your friend is on the inside. Your friend won’t always know what to ask for, just listen and provide a safe space for them to process.
Help comes in many forms, so find positive and meaningful ways to make their day better. Make sure to establish a support network for your friend so that you can stay consistent, coordinated, and connected, as support is vital to your cancer friend’s quality of life. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Make time to recharge, heal, and keep your mental health in check by asking for help from a therapist, friend, counselor, trained social worker, or other trusted confidant (always remembering your friend’s privacy wishes). Make the most of every moment and be present.
Learn More About How You Can Support
Educate yourself on how to support a loved one with cancer better. Check out the different organizations specifically curated to help support LGBTQIA+ cancer patients and LGBTQIA+ caregivers and how you can be a part of the progress.
- Read You Just Found Out Your Friend Has Cancer – Now What?
- Tune in to The Support Report with b-present
- Follow us on Instagram for more Talking Tips
- Learn more about the b-present Foundation