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    I Love My Life! Living Strong with a Chronic Illness

    With a little help from your friends and family, you can still love your life and have fun if you're a teenager living with a chronic illness.

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    Gary says that the band members help him to stay on track with his diet and insulin checks. "If I miss a check, Rob's nagging me. Or if I eat the wrong food, Ethan [the lead singer] takes it away from me. Our band is great -- but only when we're all healthy," he says.

    Rob agrees, saying friends need to help each other deal with their problems in life -- so everyone wins. "Many times Gary or Ethan has reminded me to grab my inhaler before we head out of town."

    Living Strong

    In 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer -- a serious form of cancer that gave him only a 3% chance of survival.

    Rather than admitting defeat, Armstrong chose intense rounds of chemotherapy. His doctors were amazed by his willpower and ability to block out pessimism. Even though the cancer spread to his brain and lungs and one of his testicles had to be surgically removed, Lance Armstrong beat the odds. He believed that he could win -- not just in beating cancer, but also in winning the Tour de France, the most prestigious bicycle race in the world. Lance went on to win this race seven times in a row.

    Friends Helping Friends Love Life

    Sometimes teens feel hopeless and helpless when first diagnosed with a chronic illness. But that's when they really need their friends and family cheering them on more than ever. Here are some tips you can use to help your friends:

    • Encourage. Stay on top of them. If friends with diabetes forget to check their insulin, remind them! Don't hound them or anything like that, but say, "Hey, I think you may have forgotten your insulin. Why don't you do it really fast while we've got a break?"
    • Support. Be there for them. Remember, they didn't ask for the illness. It's luck of the draw, who gets a health problem as a teenager. If your friend has to go in for another round of treatment, offer to go along, and take a Nintendo or other game to play. Offer to pick up a homework assignment for them. Or make them a "favorite songs" CD mix, something to listen to while they are getting treatment.
    • Listen. Sometimes listening is the best thing you can do. Listening to a friend's anger and fears can help them feel a sense of release.

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