Bailee Castillo: Outdoor Adventure Benefits Adolescents with Cancer

Outdoor adventure therapy (OAT) is a valuable tool when it comes to helping adolescent cancer patients. Many studies have shown how OAT can benefit these adolescent patients socially, psychologically, and physically. When it comes to cancer therapeutic programs and treatment resources, they are commonly divided into two groups, children and adults. This leaves out a very important age group, adolescents, and leads to them typically being treated in either child or adult programs which does not provide them with the most beneficial service. For loved ones of an adolescent who is battling cancer, it should be a top priority to find the best service that will benefit the needs of the patient, and outdoor adventure therapy has proven to be just that. OAT is one of the few services which is specifically directed towards adolescent cancer patients. When providing treatments and services for adolescents with cancer, it is important to focus on their health related quality of life which is revolved around the patient’s physical, psychological, and social effects cancer has on them.

A very important part of the health related quality of life of adolescents with cancer is the social side. Children make friends very easily, and they typically do not judge others at this age. They have either not began the school process or they have just begun it, so they do not have to worry very much about their school environment. Adults have strong friendships which allow them to keep tight knit relationships and have a strong support system while they are going through this difficult time in their life. However, friendships and socializing are very important parts of the adolescent age that is not addressed by most cancer treatments. Adolescents are known to be judgmental which can lead to these patients being made fun of and possibly losing friends. They are also in the prime of their education and missing school during this age can have negative effects moving forward and cause them to drift apart from their school friends. This can cause these adolescents to feel disconnected which can lead to a decrease in their self-esteem thus hindering their healing process.

One major impact that outdoor adventure therapy has on its participants is that the activities and exercises promote an increase in self-esteem. When these adolescents participate in various challenging activities and accomplish the goals of these activities, they develop the attitude that they can do anything they set their mind to. For example, an unnamed adolescent with cancer participant in Belynda Wynn, Alexandra Frost, and Paddy Pawson’s outdoor adventure therapy research study was interviewed at the end of the program, and they stated, “I think this adventure will help me a lot in life because it has taught me that I can do anything that I believe in.” This shows how OAT leads to an improvement in participants’ self-esteem, and it allows them to use this new attitude to do anything they set their mind to, including defeating cancer.

Not only does outdoor adventure therapy promote psychological benefits for these adolescents, it provides physical benefits for them as well. The strenuous physical activities that these adolescents perform during OAT which include hiking, rock climbing, and more, improve the participant’s cardiovascular system which in general improves the overall health of the adolescent. Physical health and psychological health typically go hand in hand, so as physical health increases, psychological health increases as well. These strenuous activities performed during OAT are symbolic of the strenuous challenges adolescents encounter during their cancer battle.

All of the activities that are performed during outdoor adventure therapy are focused on providing the adolescent participants with the confidence they need to fight cancer. Their physical and psychological health increases during this therapy which in return improves their health related quality of life. Lifelong friendships are developed due to the intimate and challenging activities these participants engage in which provides them with the support they need in life as they continue through this hard time. Since these outdoor adventure therapy sessions focus specifically on adolescents with cancer, the participants are provided the most beneficial therapy they can possibly receive. If you have a loved one who is diagnosed with cancer, encourage them to be active in outdoor adventure therapy so they can develop the confidence they need to continue their battle.