Cayci E. is a vibrant young woman, a newlywed, a former Division 1 athlete, and a 2013 SAMFund grant recipient. A three-time young adult survivor, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 28, just one month after getting married. The next month, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and fought through a recurrence less than a year later.
Still floating from her wedding and her plans to begin this next chapter, the last thing on Cayci’s mind was a cancer diagnosis, let alone two. Having worked full-time since the age of 18, Cayci saw 10 years of savings disappear in 6 months as cancer quickly resulted in what most, if not all, young adults face: uncontrollable, proliferating medical bills. In fact, Cayci’s savings barely made a dent in her debt.
Financial issues are daunting, overwhelming, often unfair and all-consuming. Now imagine them with cancer—vying for one’s attention when the only goal should be fighting the disease. As Cayci describes it, “Financially [cancer] has made my life extremely stressful. Instead of focusing on getting healthy so I can get back to work and start a family, I am stuck all day trying to figure out what I can sell so I can keep the electricity on. Even though the cancer is ‘gone’ and I am thankful, it is still a prominent disease in my life.”
Although Cayci describes her financial situation as “my new cancer,” she has consistently attacked it with the same determination and focus as the disease itself. Understanding and accepting that it’s a difficult thing to celebrate and mourn life at the same time holds her steady when times are tough. She notes that not being afraid to ask for help and connecting with other young adult survivors has helped her to heal. As she notes, “I’m not sure how I’d be doing without my YA connections and The SAMFund grant [towards medical bills]. They got me back into a position where I was able to start living and giving again.”
“If I can get through cancer, I should be able to get through bills.” –Cayci
Cayci has used her education, love of social media, and belief in natural products to create The Natural Fighter, a line of body products using USDA certified organic ingredients.
Although her day-to-day life is still largely affected by fatigue and chemo-brain, she gets through difficult times by being “thankful to be alive to complain, taking it one day at a time, and releasing the fear that comes with cancer when I need to.”
Donating a portion of The Natural Fighter proceeds to The SAMFund, LIVESTRONG, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Cayci is living out her desire to “pay it forward” to other young adult survivors and the organizations that support them.