Fighting the Fright of Young Adult Cancer
April 2, 2012
By: Scott Adams
My cancer experience began on February 4th, 2008. As an enthusiastic, young, Clinical Exercise Physiology intern, I was completely unprepared for the world I was about to enter. For the first time in my life, I bore witness to the painful reality of cancer. Hired at the end of my internship, my understanding of the physiological and functional consequences of cancer and its treatments continued to increase. However, it wasn’t until the late spring that a passing comment from a young survivor drew my attention to the fact that cancer might be different for adolescents and young adults (AYA). In an attempt to learn more, I immediately got involved with the Young Adult Division of Hope & Cope at the Wellness Center, and, by January 2009, began coordinating AYA programs for Hope & Cope.
2009 turned out to be a game-changer for me, both professionally and personally. My introduction to the clinical reality of AYA cancer came though my involvement with Dr. Petr Kavan and the McGill AYA Oncology Program at the Jewish General Hospital. The primary benefit to working within an interdisciplinary environment, such as the AYA team, was the simultaneous exposure to the multiple professional facets of care and their influence on each other. Despite my frontline, and often challenging, exposure to the breadth of the professional side of AYA cancer care, NOTHING could have prepared me for my first experience with the truly personal side of it.
My awakening to the true reality of AYA cancer came in the summer of 2009, during Young Adult Cancer Canada’s (YACC) “Retreat Yourself – East” event. Never before had I witnessed the awesome support capacity of a community of individuals who were bonded by lived experience. Together, that incredible group of individuals was able to discuss their concerns, confront their fears, and emerge stronger than ever! I was so thankful to have been let into their world – a privilege that I continue to be grateful for, and inspired by. Becoming deeply connected to this community and their cause I came back to Montreal completely inspired, albeit emotionally shell-shocked. My conviction was renewed, and I was ready to make a difference.
Shortly after my return (late September 2009), I found myself across a breakfast table from Matthew Zachary (founder of I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation) and several members of the Montreal AYA community, talking about the challenges of building and sustaining AYA support. Driving home that day, recalling my experience at the YACC retreat, the concept for what would become CancerFightClub began to take shape. Over the time that followed, it became increasingly obvious that the AYA community was in specific need of access to appropriate information, support and interaction. These needs became the foundation on which CancerFightClub was built; and since December 2009, with the generous funding of Hope & Cope, I have been working with over 65 dedicated AYA community members to turn CancerFightClub into a one-stop-shop for AYA information, support and interaction.
So here we are! I couldn’t be happier with the product we’ve created and the recent launch of our beta site. At CancerFightClub, our mission is to connect the AYA cancer community to each other and to the organizations dedicated to serving them. Looking ahead, I am really excited to keep working with our national AYA community to take “the fight” across Canada!