In December of 2006 I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin?s lymphoma. I had been living in New York City and was only home for Thanksgiving. I had just signed a two-year lease on an apartment and had a follow-up interview with a publishing firm when I returned. I told my mom about the night sweats I?d been having and the fevers I was experiencing every evening while back in Austin. On Thanksgiving Day I went to an urgent care facility where the dominoes were set into play?
December 4th was my official diagnosis, and on December 20th of 2006 I began dose-escalated BEACOPP for my lymphoma. After five months of chemotherapy I underwent 24 days of targeted radiation, finishing treatment June 29th, 2007. I have been in remission ever since.
I was lucky that not only did the treatment work for me but that I was correctly and quickly diagnosed and began treatment soon thereafter. As is often the case, young adults are mis- and undiagnosed for weeks, months, or even years because ?you?re too young to have cancer.? I was also lucky that I had health insurance because so many young adults ? out of college, but not in a career-path job ? are uninsured which complicates the already rocky cancer experience tenfold.
I was also fortunate to find Planet Cancer ? a community of support for young adults with cancer ? to help me through my cancer experience. I attended one of their retreats soon after finishing treatment and was introduced to an amazing group of young adult patients and survivors. To hear and relate to their stories was incredibly therapeutic and helped me understand that I was not alone. In fact, 70,000 young adults are diagnosed in the United States every year. Sadly, survival rates for them have not gone up in three decades whereas survival rates for pediatric and older adult cancers continue to climb.
It is unfortunate that young adults with cancer are so often overlooked, but that is what NYACW is about ? advocating on the behalf of the nearly million young adult patients and survivors living in the US to make sure that those in the future will not be misdiagnosed, uninsured, or overlooked.