National Young Adult Cancer Week. Why should you care? According to the National Cancer Institute:
* Nearly 70,000 people between the ages of 15 and 39 (collectively called AYAs) are diagnosed with cancer each year.
* Cancer kills more people in the AYA age group than any other disease.
* Even though survival rates have steadily improved for children and adults who have cancer, survival has lagged behind for AYAs.
* The roadblocks: low number of clinical trials for AYAs and poor participation; delayed diagnosis of primary cancers; inadequate treatment practices and settings for AYA cancer patients; poor understanding of the biology of AYA cancers; limited access to care and insurance coverage for AYA cancers; limited emphasis on prevention and early detection for AYAs; and unique AYA psychosocial and supportive care needs.
These past few days, I had the opportunity to spend time with the 550 most inspirational people I’ve ever met at Stupid Cancer’s annual OMG Cancer Summit for Young Adults in Las Vegas, a conference for young adult patients, survivors, and caregivers.
We came from all walks of life: some of us had cancer when we were children; other were adults just starting their independent life. Some of us lost breasts, testicles, and limbs; others didn’t even lose their hair. Some weren’t even old enough to drink; others were 20 years in remission. It wasn’t a contest or a pity party, because we all had one thing in common: we had cancer. We were put through an emotional, mental, and physical challenge. It didn’t matter if we were still in treatment or out of treatment, we all had one goal: to get busy living and share our experiences with others. (If you have 10 minutes, here’s a documentary put together by Stupid Cancer, the premier young adult cancer organization.)
It’s a club you don’t want to belong to, but like founder Matthew Zachary said with a nod to Olive Garden, when you’re here, you’re family.
This weekend, I was with 550 people who understood everything I’ve gone through. However, we must continue to educate, advocate, share our stories, and fight for other young adults. Please take the time to learn more about cancer in young adults. If you’ve had or have been affected by cancer, share your story.
We’re not alone.