The young adult gap

Hey, gang,

Another long absence, for which I apologize. Each time I sit to write, I realize how much I enjoy it and recommit myself, but inevitably, many things occupy my time. This week is national young adult cancer awareness week and I figured it was a good opportunity to fire you some important info about the young adult gap and RealTime Cancer’s efforts to fill it. Count on me being back in your inbox soon!

What would you think if I told you:

More Canadian young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year than kids. In fact, there are more than twice as many young adults!

In the past 25 years, the rate at which young adults are diagnosed with cancer has not only been increasing more quickly, but our survival rates have been increasing slower than younger and older patients!

Get that? We’re getting more of the bad stuff and less of the good.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2001, 840 kids (0-14 years) were diagnosed with cancer, compared to 1,990 young adults (15-29 years).

The Childhood Cancer Foundation has been around since 1987 to help focus resources on helping kids deal with cancer. There are camps and support resources all across our country and millions of dollars in dedicated research dealing with pediatric cancer. It is important to focus these resources on pediatric oncology, and when reviewing the statistics, you will see the remarkable progress made in the past 25 years.

Adult cancer issues have never been more prominent. There are several national organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation that are doing a great job at telling us about them. Hundreds of millions of dollars are directed towards education, support, and research for adult oncology each year in Canada.

What about young adults?

RealTime Cancer has been operating for just over five years. We now deliver and promote two national initiatives–the RTC Portal and Retreat Yourself–as well as our regionally focused public education program, all from our office in St. John’s, NL with a staff of three. (By downloading our most recent annual report, you’ll see we raised  about $150,000 last year, which was our best year ever!)

In addition to building an organization from the foundation, we are also breaking new ground in the healthcare community as we reach out to those pediatric patients who are responsible enough to call their own shots with respect to treatment and care, as well as to those young adults who are in the adult hospital rooming with people who are old enough to be their grandparents.

We have a huge challenge ahead of us, and don’t mistake this for a whining rant, but this is much more a “you forgot about us, we’re in the gap, we don’t like it, and so we’re doing something about it” rant!

We aren’t trying to fundamentally change the healthcare system–yet! We acknowledge there are limited resources to deal with the increasing burden of cancer (approximately 150,000 new cases in 2006). We don’t want our own hospitals like the kids have–yet–but, in my opinion, it is time to adjust our individual and collective focus slightly.

Why do young adults need specific resources?

Cancer, like most things in life, is totally different when you’re 20 than when you’re 60–or 10, for that matter. Fertility, finances, friends–everything is different.

I have lived in the hospital with peers of my parents and grandparents, and I went to support groups with an average age that was four decades above mine. Those things were a part of my experience with cancer. They are in the past over which I have no control.

However, for my survivor buddies, present and future, things can change. And RealTime Cancer is changing them.

Our web-based community is growing and provides a place for us to connect and “share our sh*t,” as we say.

Retreat Yourself will continue to bring the community together in-person.

The public education program grows as resources allow and provides us a method to plant important preventing and dealing messages in the minds of those just entering our target audience. And as you may have guessed we always have many more ideas than human and financial resources to develop and deliver them. Those great ideas will see the light of day as RealTime Cancer grows and our access to resources is enhanced.

RealTime Cancer’s focus has never been more refined, and I hope reading this message has helped enlighten you on our reason for being and the issues we are dealing with every day.

We heard it all the time at Retreat Yourself 2005: “It is amazing to be with people who truly get me.”

Young adults with cancer face distinct and significant challenges, and they often face them in isolation from others “who truly get it.” RealTime Cancer is eliminating the isolation, creating community, and working to fill the young adult gap.

There is no pitch for money coming, not today, but if anything I’ve stated here has been a surprise or stirred you in a good or bad way, I’d love to hear about it and I’d love you to forward this to another who may be surprised or stirred.

I always say RealTime Cancer is the country’s best kept secret. We are working to change that because we are best when shared, so share as you wish!

Always…
Live life. Love life.

Geoff

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