I'm trying out different blog platforms - not sure what I like best yet, but for the time being you can find me at alicewhitney.tumblr.com
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Last weekend my fiance Chris and I flew to Las Vegas for Stupid Cancer's annual OMG 2013 Cancer Summit for Young Adults.
I'm sure other attendees are also struggling to put into words just how incredible this experience was.
Five years ago I was a senior in college, ready to savor my glory days before entering the real world. Chris and I had been dating for a little over a year - (he was living with his parents in New Jersey working his first post-college job while I was at school in Pennsylvania) - when he noticed a lump on his neck. The doctors told him they'd have to do a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous or not, and I thought "Of course it's not cancer, he's so young."
And then my world changed forever. I went to see Chris after his biopsy - we were hanging out, watching TV, and in typical Chris fashion he waited about an hour or so and out of nowhere said "Hey, so I have cancer."
He told me it was Hodgkin's Lymphoma and he would start chemotherapy in a couple of weeks, and that's all the information I got out of him. He didn't want to talk about it. We sat with his parents and he didn't talk about it. We met friends for dinner and it was like nothing had happened - he didn't want to talk about it. I got in my car to drive home and lost it. I felt like I was in a movie - this couldn't be real. I told my parents the news and I heard my Dad swear for the second time in my life.
I went back to school and for the rest of the semester I felt like a ghost among my classmates - I was there, but I wasn't really there. I went home to New Jersey whenever I could to keep Chris company. I felt guilty for not being with him more, and when I was with him he'd tell me how bad he felt for putting me through this. It was hard to keep updated on his treatments because I wasn't always there, and he never wanted to talk about it - when I was around he just wanted things to be as normal as possible, and I tried my best to do that.
By the end of the summer his cancer had cleared and he was officially done with chemo, and in the fall we had a big party with our friends to celebrate. Since then, apart from his check-ups, we don't really talk about his cancer - because it's over.
Except it wasn't - it still isn't - and we couldn't admit that until this past weekend.
We were a little apprehensive about going to the OMG Summit (why harp on the past? we've moved on and don't want to think about cancer anymore), but we knew deep down it was something we wanted to to - and we're so glad we did. Chris met so many cancer survivors his age that he could relate to and discuss life in remission. I met fellow caregivers/spouses/partners who went through the same struggles I went through. We learned a lot, and it felt good to finally talk - really talk - about our experience with cancer. The whole weekend we both kept saying "we're so glad we did this." There was such a great energy that whole weekend - every person there, whether a survivor, currently in treatment, caregiver, parent, etc. was bursting with positive energy and true kindness. What an amazing, inspiring group of people.
We wish we had found this organization earlier, and I strongly urge anyone who has been affected in any way by young adult cancer to check out Stupid Cancer. When you're in the bubble of going through cancer treatment, you don't realize how much it helps to talk to others who know what you're going through.
Chris and I are so thankful to be where we are today, and so glad we were able to experience the OMG 2013 summit and meet all of the incredible people who were there.
We'll see you all next year.
P.S. Awesome cancer survivor Amanda Marsh wrote "10 Reasons You Should Attend an OMG Summit." It's a great summary of what the summit is all about!
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Did you know...?(facts below courtesy of StupidCancer.org)
• 72,000 adolescents and young adults aged 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer.
Over the past 30 years:
• Cancer incidence in young adults has increased more than any other age group.
• Survival rates have not improved at the same rate as other age groups.
• Cancer has become the number one disease killer in young adults.
• Young adults are now the most underserved patient population by age.
• Delayed cancer diagnosis is now disproportionately higher in young adults.
• Young adults get entirely different cancers than other age groups.
• There is currently no "young adult cancer research." Funding traditional cancer research most likely will not help a young adult with cancer. Innovation is needed.
• Young adults have unique needs that other age groups do not such as fertility, relationships, dating, intimacy, sexuality, singlehood, parenting, insurance, financial assistance, career planning, education and age-appropriate peers support.
• Social isolation is the number one issue faced by young adults with cancer.
• Quality of life for these patients is as important as quality of care.
• The entire medical community and cancer continuum at large is grossly uneducated as to how to effectively communicate with, diagnose, treat, support and follow-up with young adults.
• Big box cancer organizations do not currently fund young adult cancer research or support the most basic of social services to the young adult support community, let alone sponsor or underwrite young adult advocacy groups.
...I'm sure many of these facts surprised you. I know I was shocked 4 years ago, when I was a senior in college and my boyfriend (now fiance) Chris told me he had cancer.
Cancer is a hard reality to deal with regardless of age, but for the young adult population it raises a lot of unique issues:
How will I pay for my treatment when I'm already struggling financially?
Can I continue to go to college / work? I don't want to fall behind in my career.
Should I move back in with my parents?
Will I still be able to have children?
I feel guilty that my boyfriend/girlfriend is going through this with me.
Will anyone still want to date me?
Fortunately, Chris got the support & treatment he needed and has been cancer free ever since. This April Chris & I will be attending the OMG! 2013 Cancer Summit, (presented by the I'm Too Young For This! foundation) for young adult cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, etc., which will feature seminars on young adult cancer topics such as managing the finances of cancer care, fertility preservation & options, managing survivor guilt, relationships & dating with cancer, long term effects, and much much more.
Chris & I are very excited to be attending the OMG! Cancer Summit for the first time, and we think it's important for ALL young adults who have been affected by cancer to have the opportunity to participate in this event.
Please visit my fundraising page and consider making a donation to help a young adult who can't afford to attend the Cancer Summit because they are struggling to pay their medical bills, college loans, etc. get the support & education they need.