This is a guest post written by Jasmine, a first year medical student.
Having an illness in the family is so difficult at any time in your life, and there’s often a lot of worry and uncertainty surrounding this. It can be especially hard to cope if you are going through important exams whilst someone close to you is ill.
My mum suffered with cancer during my high school years, and my nana also suffered with cancer in 2016 and sadly passed away 2 days before my first GCSE exam. Both of these periods of time were so difficult for me but I believe that I used lots of different coping strategies which I am happy to be able to share with anyone who is in a similar situation.
Understand the illness
One of the hardest things about a family illness, especially a new diagnosis, can be the uncertainty of what is to come. Talk to your family and healthcare staff to help you understand the illness and what this means for your family. If something is dwelling on your mind which is worrying you and stopping you from focussing on exams and in school, please tell somebody, don’t bottle anything up. Try and avoid doing too much of your own research, as although the internet is so useful so obtaining healthcare information, you may come across things that might make you feel more anxious – it’s best to talk to a professional so you are sure that the information you are receiving is correct.
Don’t feel guilty
If someone you are close to is very ill whilst you are revising for exams, it can be very easy to feel guilty. If your loved one is away from you (in hospital, a hospice, care home or living elsewhere) it’s natural to want to spend lots of time with them, and it can be hard when you aren’t able to spend as much time with them as you would have liked to. If you are in this position, talk to your family and help them to understand how you are feeling. Express your concerns and your worries and let them know if you are struggling. You shouldn’t feel guilty for spending time preparing for exams, you are investing in your future and I’m sure that all of your loved ones would want the same for you.
It can be especially difficult if you know that your family member has a terminal illness, as you want to treasure all of those precious moments for as long as you can. Try and find a way that works for you and your family so you can still spend time with your loved one during exam season.
If it is difficult for you to be leaving the house often to visit a family member, maybe an alternative like Skype of FaceTime could be beneficial, if this works for both of you.
Find a balance
Everybody always talks about the importance of a work-life balance, and it is no exception when somebody close to you is suffering with an illness. Try to spend time with your loved ones as well as revising, but also take time to look after yourself so you don’t become overwhelmed with all of the different stresses. Read a book, watch a film, have a hot bubble bath, or do anything to help take your mind off everything for a short time. Personally, I like to fill in a weekly planner so I can keep on top of everything and schedule in time for everything aside from revising. Filling in a planner not only helps me to manage my time, but it helps me to feel less stressed as I know exactly what is happening, at what time. You can buy weekly planners from many stationery stores, or alternatively, you could just draw yourself up a quick table with the days of the week written in.
If you are making yourself overly worried about your exam results, please realise that exams are not the most important thing in the world. There are always opportunities to re-sit the following year, and there are always other paths to reach your end goal. If it is an immediate family member who is suffering with an illness or has recently passed away, you can also talk to your school exams officer and it is also possible that you could have a small percentage added on to your grade. Your school and your family will be understanding of your situation, so please never feel like you have let anyone down, ever. Whichever way you choose to prioritise your time during a difficult situation is entirely up to you and stick to what feels right. Don’t lose sight of your end goal (maybe make a vision board with pictures of your dream university, career and have it somewhere that you will often see) but it’s okay to have time off when you are facing difficult times.
I really hope this helped some of you, feel free send me a message if you have any further questions or would just like someone to talk to😊
My name is Jasmine and I’m a first year medical student! I started my Instagram account in January of this year to document my A-Level progress and post study tips, and I have recently started my own blog. My blog consists of study tips, revision techniques and also some lifestyle-based posts. On my blog I have also written in more detail about my experiences with family illness and how I dealt with them, alongside coping with the stresses of exams.