Connections Make Cancer A Little Less Lonely

Northwestern Medicine
Cancer Care/Oncology April 25, 2014
Young adult with cancerAt a time in my life when I should have been thinking about baby names and nursery colors, I was obsessing over what breast surgery I should have and what treatment route I should take. I was worrying about losing my hair. I was imagining the side effects of chemo and couldn't get movies like Dying Young out of my head. I was worried about my Mother’s worry. I was choosing doctors, getting scans and being examined by every medical intern at Northwestern. I was anxious about the financial repercussions of cancer. I was worried that my husband felt cheated. I was pissed that I couldn’t go to happy hour with my friends. And most importantly, I was scared that cancer and cancer treatment would steal my ability to have children, the one thing I had always known I wanted. I should have been choosing baby names and nursery colors… 

I know that dealing with cancer is hard no matter what age but as a young adult, you are faced with a different set of concerns and choices. For me, I felt that I was just getting started in life and cancer completely threw me off my course. It stole my innocence and often made me feel very alone.

The best decision I made was to reach out to other cancer survivors like myself. Through the resources at Northwestern, I attended young support groups, I met with fertility specialists and regularly met with Dr. Stacy Sanford, who is now Director of the Lurie Cancer Center’s Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (AYAO) Program. I also made friends with other patients going through the same experiences with cancer and treatment. Having someone to talk to who was just like me shed the loneliness quickly.  My friend Jodi and I used to take walks and talk about things that only cancer patients know… everything from concerns over motherhood to things like poop (ahem, bowel movements). Nothing was off limits and to this day, I know this support and these friends are just as responsible for my health as my medical treatment.  All these things made me believe that I could start dreaming and planning for the future again… If I ever have a girl, her name will be Hannah and a boy, Jack.

The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University offers a wide range of programs and services geared towards AYA survivors like Anne. Learn more about the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program here.
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