By Jennifer Ryan
I consider myself to be somewhat of a seasoned member of the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) community although I have only been connected for a little under four years. The YACC team has a way of making you feel connected and welcomes you into this community with open arms. I reach out to friends in the community or dig into my toolbox of resources some days more than others, but I know they are always there when I need them. What more could you ask for from a community of support people who just “get it”?
This week, YACC has launched a weekly web series called We Get It which will be posted on their website, YouTube channel and Facebook page every Monday.
The first session features Karine Chalifour and Geoff Eaton, the program director and founder/executive director of YACC respectively. During this first webcast, Karine and Geoff introduce YACC to those who are newly diagnosed or those of you who could be several years out of diagnosis or treatment, but find yourself in need of support. YACC is for YOU and I feel this webcast communicates this message beautifully.
Geoff shares his cancer experience, highlighting various challenges that many of us can relate to: lack of support post treatment, delayed diagnosis due to age, fear of recurrence, and rediscovering yourself post cancer, among others.
There are over 8,000 young adults diagnosed with cancer in Canada each year. Sadly, we know there are many not connected with YACC yet. I know it can be an overwhelmingly vulnerable step to reach out by joining a cancer community, but I promise you, will not regret it. I encourage you to check out this web series every Monday to get a feel for what YACC has to offer. YACC’s website has many profiles of our members which you can read through and connect with at your leisure.
The ups and downs of recovery from my own cancer experience continues to be a challenge almost four years post treatment. Waiting for surgical wounds to heal and return to normal is hard, but the rollercoaster of emotions that follows is where I felt I needed more support. Navigating recurrence scares, scan-anxiety, and managing new health conditions as a result of my cancer treatment are just a few of my personal challenges that I know are common in this community.
YACC has recognized this need throughout their community and it is also reflected in the data of the YAC Prime Study. This study, which began in 2017, led by Dr. Sheila Garland of Memorial University, is an incredible step toward highlighting the issues young adults with cancer commonly experience. One piece of data gathered through this study, which Geoff mentions during this first webcast, is that young adults with cancer are off work from one to four plus years. This is a big deal. As a population, we need more funding and support to help our community members deal with the ramifications of our cancer diagnoses. I encourage you to tune into future webcasts of We Get It to learn more information about this exciting study and what it will mean for our community.
Throughout my involvement with YACC, I have learned that it is a safe place for all. You choose how involved you would like to be and the team is always there to support you. I often watch the activity on our Facebook group from the sidelines and reach out to members privately to offer support. I much prefer the face to face events and I look forward to the day that the world allows us to do that again, but YACC has certainly adjusted to the current state of the world to offer many virtual avenues to stay connected. In addition to the We Get It web series, we can stay connected through YACC Web: Chats led by community members and Yakkity YACC Late Night Chats, a virtual space to purely socialize with peers.
YACC will always provide comic relief throughout their events. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Geoff’s poor internet connection causing his screen to freeze while Karine carried on with the conversation. Stay tuned for next week to see if Geoff switched internet providers!
Next week’s web series is on a topic that will definitely be of interest to all of us: “Am I immunocompromised?” Debbie Bastien is a malignant hematology nurse specialist for the Bone Marrow Transplant program at Ottawa Hospital General Campus. Debbie will join Karine to discuss questions we may have around our immunity during this pandemic as well as ways to stay healthy and discussions about the flu shot. Be sure to check it out next Monday, November 9, on YACC’s various social media platforms.
Two pieces of wisdom shared by the team during this series that I wholeheartedly agree with are: “Community really matters, YACC’s got your back!” and “we are very cool people.” You can find out more information about all of YACC’s programming by visiting their website at www.youngadultcancer.ca.