I am a young adult cancer survivor. I was diagnosed when I was 15 years old and spent a little over a year receiving chemotherapy and radiation. What I’ve learned about this disease is that you can never totally prepare for the ways it will impact your life. One of my closest friends during treatment who was from Buffalo, NY, lost his battle with this disease, and I haven’t watched the Bills since without a tear. And I still can’t quite put a hat on my head because the flashes of being bald come flooding right back. As it says in the LAF manifesto, Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life. I think this is especially true as a young adult survivor, because so much of my life has been spent coping with cancer and I plan to have many more years to come!
For better or worse, surviving cancer has had more influence on my life than just about anything else. My ability to recognize what’s important, my passion for life, and my resolve to fight this disease are all stronger because I am a survivor. I am thankful for that. I’ve worked at the LAF for 4 years, and I’ve put my all into helping to support a foundation that I believe can fundamentally change the way cancer is addressed around the globe.
In honor of this week, I’m putting my all into me, something I haven’t done a great job of to date, to take actions that I know can reduce my risk of developing a secondary cancer and to improve my overall health and wellness. At 15 years cured, due to the type of treatment I received, my chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer and of developing heart disease have just INCREASED. That?s a scary proposition for this mother of one amazing three year old! But, there are things I can do, and I’m taking action.
- I contacted LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare and through the partnership with EmergingMed spoke with a clinical trials specialist to find out about Cancer Prevention and Clinical Trials for Adults. It took about 2 minutes to fill out the form and about 5 minutes and a very nice conversation to find out that I matched to 9 clinical trials, two of which are right here in Texas.
- I found out what screening tests I should receive for late effects. The Children?s Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult (AYA) Cancers is a free resource that provides recommendations for screening and management of late effects that could arise as a result of treatment for cancer for pediatric and AYA cancer survivors.
- I scheduled the tests that I know I should receive to look for late effects. For me that means an EKG, a thyroid blood test, a visit to the Dermatologist for a mole check, a Breast MRI, and a mammogram.
- I signed up for a class at my local YMCA, to kick myself into action. Wish me luck!
- I?m writing this blog to encourage other adolescent and young adult cancer survivors and their loved ones to take action.
How YOU can take control:
- Take a look at the Survivorship Guidelines and bring them to your oncologist or health care provider to discuss (if they are appropriate for you).
- Contact LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare to find out if there are clinical trials that are right for you, or access any of their other amazing services available from our partners at Cancer Care or Patient Advocate Foundation such as receivinghelp with insurance issues related to follow-up care.
- Visit LAF?s web portal designed to address the needs of AYAs including podcasts, videos, and tons of great information from the members of the Young Adult Alliance.
- Download or order the free Planning for Life After Cancer brochure specifically created for AYAs after cancer treatment.
- Get involved with one of LAF’s health and wellness programs in your community including Community Grant program grantees; LIVESTRONG at the YMCA; and Cancer Transitions: Moving Beyond Treatment.
- Participate in the LIVESTRONG Challenge. A 5K or a 40 mile bike ride looming over you is a great way to get motivated to get moving!
- Find out about how to get the LIVESTRONG at School program for K-12 students in a school near you. Even if you?re not a teacher, all of the necessary tools are right there on the site to help schools implement this free program that teaches students about cancer in a way that is inspiring and empowering.
- Join the LIVESTRONG Army and make a change in your community.
Whatever you choose to do, I can tell you I’m glad to be active in the fight and know that I’m doing something. I hope to have a lot of years left, and cancer will in some way always be a part of my life, so finding a way to feel empowered puts me back in control.