For years, colleagues, friends and relatives have been telling me that I should take the trip to the annual ASCO (American Society for Clinical Oncology) meeting. Finally, on May 29th, 2015, I flew to Chicago ready to network, see old friends (including some of the docs who helped save my life), and meet lots of new people in the oncology world.
Now I get it.
Both personally and professionally, being there as a representative of The SAMFund and as a two-time cancer survivor was incredibly gratifying and meaningful. Things got off to a great start as my very first oncologist, who diagnosed and treated me for Ewing’s Sarcoma, made The SAMFund booth his first stop at ASCO. (It is so much better seeing my doctors outside of, instead of in, the hospital.) I also got to spend time with several SAMFund alums who live in Chicago and I loved every second with them. It’s amazing that so many are dedicated to paying it forward and helping The SAMFund grow. We are incredibly grateful.
Other highlights included seeing many of my doctors from MSKCC walking around the conference hall wearing purple #cancerisntfree buttons, introducing The SAMFund to the many conference attendees who learned about us for the first time at the Patient Advisory Booth, and reconnecting with some of our partners like Triage Cancer, Critical Mass and A Fresh Chapter.
Hands down, though, the most exciting part of being at ASCO was hearing – and participating in – the many conversations about financial toxicity and cancer. The issue of the cost of cancer was highlighted in this morning’s ASCO Daily News, so I’m equally glad to see these conversations continuing even though the conference itself is over.
All of this was a reminder that our work matters. In talking about the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis, it’s so important to bring the AYA voice to the conversation. Yes, cancer is expensive. Yes, the medical bills pile up and the bill collectors start calling and patients find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. And yes, health insurance costs are astronomical and co-pays are ongoing and other side effects are lingering. Our job is to raise awareness of how much harder these issues become when you’re a young adult just starting out your life.
Until we can collectively figure out how to make this better, we’ll keep pushing the issue into the spotlight and will continue to share the stories of the people behind the statistics. We are excited and proud to be part of this conversation and committed to keeping the momentum going.