Cancer’s only part of it

“You’re at a hospital where there’s Barney painted on the wall and clowns walking around. It’s like being at a Disney resort sometimes. You feel kind of like, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m going through this experience, and I’m aware of what’s going on. I’m not a toddler.’ It’s hugely emotional.”

It was also profoundly isolating.

For young people dealing with cancer, the challenges are numerous: delayed diagnosis; tumours and cancers that don’t behave, or are unresponsive to chemotherapy and other treatments, as they do in other age groups; coping with hair loss, acne, weight gain, reduced sexuality or fertility; a lack of cancer treatment programs or centres specifically targeted to young people. “They’re pretty much almost this vulnerable, homeless population,” says Dr. Rod Rassekh, a pediatric oncologist at BC Children’s Hospital.

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