By Peter Mazereeuw
February 24, 2009
Cancer. Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than having to say that word and deal with the elephant in the room. Like divorce or depression, it is one of a few topics in our polite society all too often brushed aside with sympathy, re-assurance, or hushed whispers. After all, while it may be tragic, it probably won’t happen to you.
That is of course, unless you are a male or female living in Canada, or anywhere else on planet Earth. According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s latest statistics, 39 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men will likely develop some kind of cancer in their lifetime. One in four Canadians will die from the disease. In all likelihood, every family will be directly affected by this disease at some point. With local Southlake Hospital soon to become one of the biggest cancer treatment centers in York region and beyond, this cold fact is only going to become harder to avoid.
When most people think of cancer they think of chain smokers, heavy drinkers, and octogenarians. This is most certainly not always the case. In fall of 2006 I was one of the over 3,000 people under the age of 30 diagnosed with cancer in Canada each year. I am part of a group of young adults and youth often overlooked by statisticians and cancer-care advocates; partly because our numbers are smaller than those in other age groups, and partly because most don’t think that this sort of thing happens to healthy, young men and women.
While the diagnosis and type of treatment may vary among patients, none are easy. Physically, the effects go far beyond losing a few pounds and some hair. Every treatment has side-effects, every drug to help with side-effects has more of its own, and more or less every part of the body internally and externally is affected. A young man or woman undergoing cancer treatment can expect a quick change from having a body in its prime to one with many of the weaknesses common in a senior citizen. Ours is a unique perspective, as life is put on hold during some of the most crucial years when it is supposed to truly begin. Sympathy and reassurance are easy to find, but real understanding is not.
This is precisely what Pat Taylor strives to change. She lost her daughter to cancer several years ago. During the end of their time together, mother and daughter came together with several other young cancer patients to film a round-table discussion on the effects of cancer on young adults, including the physical, psychological and, perhaps most importantly, sociological aspects. When her daughter Sara passed on, Pat turned this footage into a documentary-style film she is now trying to show to public health officials, young cancer patients and care-givers, and the general public across the country. She has already had success in British Columbia where the film was made, and is now doing screenings around the country, hoping to spread the knowledge and perspective the film lends to its viewers wherever she can.
You can find out more by visiting chasingrainsbowsproduction.com.