I had no idea I wasn’t the only one. Intellectually it made sense I wasn’t but the observation of my immediate surroundings strongly suggested I was.
No one in my family had cancer in their twenties. None of my buddies had cancer. I heard about a few classmates from school but never really knew how much was rumour and how much was true.
Sure, I would eventually meet other young adults with cancer, but not many, and not often.
Isolation is worse when it’s unnecessary like mine was. If you are a young adult with cancer, your isolation is unnecessary, too.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were 7,000 young adults just like me that year. 7,000 who had their tracks changed, dreams delayed or destroyed, education or career paused or stopped altogether. 7,000 young adults who suddenly or—in the case of many—finally after months and months of misdiagnoses, came face to face with the very real possibility of their death 50 to 60 years before they were planning on it.
While 7,000 is a big number for sure we are not the majority in the cancer clinic (thankfully). Minority status comes with few “benefits” for young adults with cancer: no specialized care, super-low clinical trial participation, next to no focused research on our issues, medical or otherwise, and barely a support group in the whole country for us to help move out of that isolation.
Not fair to say “no” benefits I suppose; I am no longer afraid of needles. That’s what having 1,427,843 needles will do. I do have reduced lung capacity, a dropped foot from ICU and, of course, I’m prone to freak-outs and a spiral of relapse thoughts brought on by the slightest of ailments or changes in my body.
I am fond of my new perspective on life, as it truly does have new parts. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. But the isolation! That is something you could have taken from me at any time.
It is Young Adult Cancer Canada’s main priority to eliminate the isolation for the 7,000 young adults diagnosed this year and the tens of thousands living beyond their experience just like me.
At Survivor Conference 2012, more than 100 survivors, supporters, and staff, will tackle seven kilometers for the 7,000 young adults that will be thrust into isolation this year.
We will spend the rest of our year bringing them out of that isolation and into network—a transition that will be life-changing for them, like it was for me.
Live life. Love life.