Dr. Phil talks to overprotective parents who won’t let their 15-year-old grow up.
Heather was a regular teenager who enjoyed school dances and football games. Then she received some devastating news. “I discovered a lump on my breast. When I found out that I had cancer, it just didn’t click with me because I didn’t know it could happen to 17-year-olds.”
After having a mastectomy, she says she didn’t feel normal. “It was hard to look at myself in the miror. Just to have nothing there, it just was shocking,” she confesses. “I’m just paralyzed that I’m not going to be liked.”
After her surgery, Heather was fitted for a prosthesis. “I just had homecoming. Everybody was worried about their hair and their nails and I was worried about what my prosthesis would look good in,” she recalls.
Although her family is supportive, Heather feels like a burden. “Sometimes I want to just give up and say I don’t want to be strong anymore,” she cries, turning to Dr. Phil. “I just want to know how to resume a normal life as a normal teenager.”
“I’m so glad that y’all are here willing to talk about this,” Dr. Phil tells Heather and Wendy. He points out that Heather detected her cancer early and is now in complete remission.
“I think you are doing an amazing job of handling all this,” he tells Heather. “Amazing job means … being strong, going to your appointments, dealing with everything. Doing amazingly well also means crying, being upset, being angry, being afraid. Those things are all normal, they’re all natural. That’s not being weak.”
Addressing Wendy, Dr. Phil says, “You don’t like to think about it, you don’t like to talk to her about it because you hurt so much for her and you feel terribly helpless. Would you agree?”
“Yes,” she says.
“But you’re not helpless at all,” Dr. Phil assures her. “Sometimes, she needs to know that she can cry and be upset and you won’t freak.”
To Heather, he asks, “Don’t you feel like if you just all of a sudden have a meltdown one day, your mom’s just going to be a basket case?”
“Yeah,” she replies.
“What do you really need from your mom?” Dr. Phil probes.
Heather answers, “She’s been doing everything right. It’s just that I feel like this shouldn’t be happening. She shouldn’t have to go through this. None of my family should.”
Dr. Phil stresses that Heather shouldn’t feel guilty about her situation. “You’re not being a burden on your family; this is what family is all about. When someone gets in trouble, family closes ranks,” he explains, telling Heather that her mother needs to know when she is hurting. “There are going to be times when you need to get in a fetal position, put your head in her lap and just cry or scream and be angry,” he advises. “She needs to have the privilege of being your mother when you need to do that. That is not a burden on her. It is a gift to allow her to be there for you in that way.”
“I just don’t want to let anybody know that I’m upset about it so I try to just wait until I’m by myself,” Heather admits. “I used to be so happy, and now I’m not so I want to keep acting like I’m myself.”
“You have a definition that says, ‘I’m 17 and bright and bubbly, and I’m supposed to be that way, and so I have to put on the mask and pretend that I am,'” Dr. Phil tells Heather. “That’s not true. You’re more than that. You’re not jewelry for this family. It’s you and your character and your soul and your depth. With that comes the hurt and the joy, the pain and the victory. All of those things have to be shared by your mom, by your whole family. Don’t feel like you have to play a role or you’re letting them down.”
Dr. Phil continues: “You are on a hero’s journey. You already are creating meaning to your suffering. Think of all of the women that are hearing this, all of them that are finding strength in your sensitivity and your caring and the awareness you’re raising about young women needing to check these things and monitor themselves for breast cancer … You need to teach with your life that it’s OK to be scared, it’s OK to cry.”
He introduces Wilma, a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24. Pointing to his own head, Dr. Phil says, “It gets better here and in your heart. Does it not?”
Wilma agrees. “At first, you don’t know where to turn … You can’t relate to any of your friends. But you do get through it. I really suggest you should go to support groups … I’ll be more than happy to call you and check up on you and make sure everything’s alright.”
Wilma had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and immediate reconstruction. “I’m feeling great, and I got married a couple of months ago,” she says.
Dr. Phil encourages Heather to talk to Wilma after the show.
“The main thing I want you to do is give yourself permission to own all of your feelings and give all of your feelings a voice,” Dr. Phil advises Heather. “And let me tell you something about this woman sitting next to you. She can deal with this. And she’s going to feel a lot better knowing where you are than thinking that you’re going back isolated, alone in your room and crying because you think you have to show her a mask.”
Because Heather’s had such a difficult senior year, Dr. Phil has a surprise for her. “We got in touch with Contiki Holidays … and they want to send you and a friend to their new resort in Mykonos, Greece this coming spring as soon as you turn 18. It doesn’t make everything OK,” Dr. Phil stresses, “but it just gives you a chance to kick back and let people take care of you.”
Heather thanks Dr. Phil.