Last week was National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. From news articles to social media posts, we worked to spread awareness of our young adult (YA) cancer community. In case you missed it, here are stories from five amazing YA cancer survivors. Sharing these stories not only shows the unique challenges YAs diagnosed with cancer face, but also how they overcome them. Unfortunately, many YAs dealing with the impact of cancer are still struggling with their challenges; they need more resources, earlier detection, lower costs, and more advocacy.
As our CEO Samantha Watson says, “Though none of us individually can solve all of the issues stated above, the most readily available resource that we can all contribute to young adult cancer survivors is awareness: that they are not alone, that there is a community of thousands of their peers that they can turn to, and that their future can be as bright as it was before their diagnosis.”
Here are their inspirational stories:
“After a devastating cancer diagnosis at the age of 27, and following cancer treatments, I found myself struggling with infertility due to radiation treatments. My wife and I struggled for almost 10 years to have a child. We went through several fertility treatments without any luck. I then received a grant from The Samfund to help me build a family- a long time dream of mine. Thanks to the grant, my wife and I were able to afford IVF treatments and are now the proud and thankful parents of a beautiful 3 month old baby girl!” – Tim
“In my mid to late twenties, I was trying to find purpose and my direction in life. I was somewhere between being in my adolescence and full adulthood. When I was diagnosed with cancer, it gave me an identity. I was a cancer patient. But when I finished treatment, I no longer had that identity. Struggling with discovering who I was, my cancer treatment also left me with a sundry of financial burdens. When I received a Samfund grant, it immediately relieved that stress. Slowly, I was able to begin my life again. I put the pieces back together and discovered a new identity and purpose. I began working in the cancer community, both mentoring patients and becoming an advocate. Specifically, increasing awareness around testicular cancer and launching an initiative with USC and UCLA hospital to change the health curriculum of LA schools.” – Jonathan
“As a young adult with cancer there were many challenging situations that I faced. The biggest one being the struggle to maintain a normal lifestyle for my children after taking a large cut in pay because I had to be placed on disability while going through chemo. As a young mother, my children were used to me having energy and being a constant in their daily activities. Because I was financially stable before cancer, they were also used to being able to participate in different extracurricular activities. Treatment co-pays and hospital bills took a large chunk of an already decreased income and a large chunk out of my energy as well. I overcame all of this through the help of my family, the surprisingly mature understanding of my young sons, and the support of The Samfund. The Samfund allowed me the financial freedom to occasionally do something special for my children so they knew that although Mommy was sick, they were still important and they wouldn’t have to feel punished because of her illness.” – Jessica
“I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 23 as a senior in college at UCLA. Prior to chemotherapy and radiation, I did not have a problem focusing or remembering information. Immediately after treatment, I would often cry because no mattered how much I studied, I could not retain the information. My frequent illness combined with fatigue and concentration challenges extended my time in graduate school. As a result, I was unable to afford tuition needed to complete my degree. The Samfund paid for my last semester in graduate school and saved me from having to drop out. The financial help that I received from them really helped to propel my dreams forward, even though my life was halted and slowed at times due to the after effects of cancer. Overtime, I adopted a new method of studying and I’m now entering my last year of medical school and will graduate in May of 2017.” – Jacquae
“After nursing school, I was accepted to a 6 month RN Residency program with no guarantee of a permanent position. About halfway through the program, I started to have symptoms of Graft Vs. Host Disease [GVHD] which is a chronic condition I have as a result of stem cell transplant. I had to cut my hours at the hospital and wasn’t offered a permanent position at the end of the 6 months. It was devastating at the time because I became a nurse because of cancer and I loved direct patient care – but it forced me to realize that I needed to be realistic about my career as I was only in my early 30’s. I decided to go back to school for my Master’s degree in nursing and a grant from The Samfund allowed me to pay for all of my books. I graduated in May of 2015 and I now work as a nurse coordinator. My advanced degree allows me to be involved in systems level changes; so while I no longer do direct patient care, my new role allows me to affect thousands of patients.” – Lindsey