Young Adults with Cancer: the Fiercest Warriors I Have Ever Met

Dear Young Adult Cancer Patient,

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but you have captured my heart. Through my 2.5 years of nursing you have taught me far more than I could ever imagine. You have wisdom beyond your years and truly know what it means to live.

I remember the first time I saw an age younger than mine in the chart, it was a harsh reality. Despite being young, vibrant, and healthy you were still diagnosed with cancer. You weren’t even a smoker and you had lung cancer that spread everywhere… they were completely uncertain of how you in your mid twenties had gotten lung cancer.

I remember admitting you for your first round of chemo. You and your husband just a few months prior were talking about starting a family. Now you were faced with the quick reality that you would probably lose your ability to conceive and while figuring out chemo, a stem cell transplant, and dealing with the fact that you have cancer, you had to make decision on preserving your ability to have children. Life really did change for you overnight, but with a brave face you took on this challenge with a smile.

I remember you, not just one of you but two of you, who found out you were pregnant and had cancer. One of you minutes apart, the other of you just a few months apart. You both had a choice… your life or your babies life. You both selflessly chose your child’s life. You both amazed me.

I remember you, many of you, young moms. You faced each day with the determination to have more time with your children and many of you beat the statistics for each of your cancers. You would spend that time with your children. The incredible love between you and your husbands has shown me that true love really does still exist. All of you, are incredibly brave women that I am so beyond blessed to have been able to be your nurse.

The young fathers, how you loved your children and your wives. My heart still breaks thinking of saying goodbye to you as you were discharged to hospice.

And the young singles. You bravely have faced this battle with grace and dignity. I have nothing but utter respect for you as you have faced your battles. Some of you have chosen to face it alone only letting a few people walk with you, others of you let your family and friends rally around you… all of you have left me speechless by your ability to walk through this.

So to all young adult cancer patients and survivors, please know that I think you are incredibly brave, bold, and amazingly beautiful. I’m so beyond blessed to walk with some of you through your cancer battle and will continue fighting for you. Thank you for capturing my heart and allowing me the privilege to walk with you.

With sincere appreciation,

One of your nurses

I could continue writing, but the fact stands… young adults with cancer is a VERY real thing. And it isn’t just one type of cancer, but a widespread variety cancer.  Many of the patients I have come in contact with felt healthy one day and not the next day. Each year 72,000 people ages 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer (1).  There is very little research that has been done on treating cancer in the 15-39 age range. In people 40 and older around 60% of them are in clinical trials while ages 15-39 only about 2% (2). This leaves little room for improvement in treatments.  Cancer is the 4th leading cause of people aged 20-39 only behind suicide, homicide, and accidents (3).

I could continue on with the statistics, but my main goals in writing this post are this.

1. If you have the incredible opportunity to meet a young adult cancer patient or survivor, I encourage you to sit and get to know them. They are pretty incredible.

2. Help the fight by donating specifically to places like Stupid Cancer that specifically go to researching and assisting this specific age group fight against cancer.

3. If you are in this age range, please don’t think you are invincible. Here are the simple things I recommend to help keep an eye on your own health… get a yearly physical, get yearly blood work, get a year skin check… and if you think something is wrong please don’t delay going to the doctor.

Resources:

1. Stupid Cancer

2. National Cancer Institute

3. American Cancer Society

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