In honor of National Young Adult Cancer Week, we are sharing stories of real cancer survivors ages 15-39 that have faced the disease and all the difficult aftereffects cancer can bring. Young adults face unique challenges that their older and younger counterparts do not: lower rates of insurance, finishing school, starting a career and preparing for having a family. Below is an interview from a young man named Eliezer Ponce. I met him via Twitter earlier this year and was impressed with his positive attitude. A big thank you to Elie for offering to share his story with the world. LIVESTRONG, Elie!
What is your name and where are you from?
Hola my name is Eliezer Ponce; I’m a Puerto Rican currently residing in Los Angeles, California.
What type of cancer did you have and how old were you when diagnosed?
This past January I went to the ER because of a groin injury, and that’s when the doctors found “something wrong”. Then the ultrasound, blood samples, scans… 2 hours later, doctor walks into my little room to confirm his original diagnosis; that there was a mass and it had to be removed. After surgery, biopsy, and 2 more weeks of waiting, here I am 31 years old and diagnosed with testicular cancer Stage 1 Seminona.
What did you notice about being a young person affected by cancer?
I believe cancer has no age. It affects everyone. But as a young adult affected by cancer I feel that one can feel isolated from the world. Young people need to know there are places to connect with others going through the same situation, so we don’t feel alone.
As a young patient the more I read about treatment options, stories of survivors, stories about those who fought until the end, the importance of nutrition and exercise, I felt more comfortable and positive. Finding the correct information is key for everyone affected by cancer, and there is a lack of information out there for young patients. We don’t want to hear the words remission, or long term side effects, although is valuable to know, but we want to hear the words survive, live, fight and laugh.
Did you deal with fertility issues, physical rehabilitation, fatigue, insurance or job issues? How did you deal?
I was blessed to be diagnosed with a non-aggressive cancer at a very early stage, so after surgery and the results for all the scans coming back negative, doctors were confident the cancer was gone. I only needed one chemotherapy session, more preventive than anything, and before I went in for treatment I went and stored my specimen at a Cryobank, at first I wasn’t going to, but I read and found the right information that helped me make a wise decision.
Cancer drains you physically and mentally. One of the hardest things has been changing my lifestyle and eating habits. At first it seems like a burden, all the doctors’ appointments, scans, blood tests, follow-ups, etc… But the more I read and the more I talk with others affected by cancer, I learned that once you are diagnosed, you are a patient for life. I was blessed to come out of this situation quickly, so it’s my duty to help others that aren’t as fortunate as I am.
Do you notice any stigma surrounding your cancer diagnosis from your community? How do you deal?
I believe there is a stigma in the Latin community about cancer, but the main reason for that is the lack of education. People only know about cancer what they see on TV and unfortunately there is not that much. The reaction from family members and friends proved it. I had to be the positive one and the support for my family and friends, making clear to them that I wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t going to let a diagnosis control my life, I controlled my diagnosis.
If you could give one piece of advice to a cancer survivor just diagnosed, what would it be?
BE POSITIVE!!!! Life is beautiful and there are 3 things now that I will value more than anything; Time, Talent, Treasure!!! Pain is inevitable but it will go away. Read as much as you can about your diagnosis and learn to adapt it to your daily life. Live, laugh, fight and reach out to others that can help you go through it. You’re not alone… My name is Elie Ponce and I’m at your service!!