My mother — who I'm very close to — was recently diagnosed with cancer. I feel so lost, confused and sad. I want to talk to someone about how I feel so that I can be strong for my mother. I'd talk to my friends, but I don't want their sympathy. What I'd really like is to talk with people my age who are also going through this. Can you tell me where to start? — Amanda, 17, Boise, Idaho

Your mom is so lucky to have such a sensitive, thoughtful and loving daughter, Amanda. (She must be just as wonderful herself to have instilled those traits in you!) Please know that we will keep you and your mom in our thoughts and are sending you both our love and support.

As for your finding additional support from people in situations like yours, head to acscsn.org, the Web site for the American Cancer Society's Cancer Survivors Network. On the site's discussion boards and in its chat room, you can "talk" with others who are currently in your situation (or who have been). You can also ask your school guidance counselor about specific resources in your town. And remember: As strong as you want to be for your mom, you owe it to her and to yourself to express your honest emotions and reactions. So talk to your mom about her cancer: Ask her what she's feeling, what her treatment will be like, and if there's anything you can do to help. And tell her what you're feeling — whether you're scared or angry or confused or some combination of any or all of those emotions. Honesty takes a lot of courage, and the more honest you two are with each other, the stronger each of you (and your relationship) will become.

I have problems with trust. In all of my previous relationships, I've been cheated on and lied to so much. How do I overcome that nagging feeling of suspicion so that I can start trusting guys? I'm so scared of getting hurt again. — Mitzi, 18, Cheyenne, Wyo.

We're sorry you've been hurt or are hurting, Mitzi. Relationships can be complicated and frustrating. But they can also be incredibly rewarding and can teach you about yourself. So please don't let your past experiences keep you from putting your heart out there again! Instead, try hard to learn something from these negative relationship experiences.

For starters, think for a second about the guys who disappointed you: Is there some trait all of them had in common (like a "bad boy" attitude that you found exciting, or a lingering relationship you saw as a challenge to make them get over)? If so, in the future, start ruling out boys who have that trait. (Some relationship experts call a characteristic like this a "fatal flaw" — it attracts you at first, but in the end it turns out to be the thing that keeps the relationship from ever really working!)

Also think about patterns that emerged in all of the dishonest relationships — like the guy's stories not matching up or him being "out with the guys" way too often. Sometimes people betray us because we trust them too quickly. One way to reduce the chances of being betrayed is to take things slowly. Pay attention to how guys treat you over time, and speak up if anyone doesn't treat you the way that he should. If this bad behavior persists, distance yourself or end the relationship. Sometimes we have to teach people how we want to be treated, and we can do this only by taking relationships slowly and letting trust build over time. No matter what, don't let any guy treat you as anything less than amazing — because that's what you are.


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