Monday, April 06, 2009

National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week

It’s spring, which means the disease walk-a-thons, bike races, charity walks, and general awareness campaigns tend to kick into high gear.

As a rare disease patient, I watch these mobilizations with a mix of curiosity, appreciation, and intrigue. That these populations are big enough to sustain such events is, of course, a double-edged sword: so many people are impacted by them that there is strength in numbers, but that those numbers are so high is the very reason for the mobilization.

I had Rare Disease Day, and that was a start for me. People I love (or the people other people in my life love) live with all sorts of conditions, so I find myself sponsoring things like MS bike rides, arthritis or heart disease walks, or diabetes or specific cancer awareness events more and more. I’ve done the charity walk for Children’s Hospital Boston for several years.

But it’s the first year I’ve been aware of the existence of Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week, and I’m interested in it for many of the same reasons I wrote about for Rare Disease Day and many of the same reasons I wrote a book about chronic illness in younger adults:

This is a population whose needs are both unique and overlooked. There are thousands of types of cancer, but the larger universal experiences of getting diagnosed with it and living with it as a young adult are significant. From access to care and early detection to issues of employment and family-planning, these challenges affect so many younger adults across the country.

I had the chance to speak in person with Kairol Rosenthal last week, and it’s largely due to her advocacy that YAWC is on my radar this week. For a more in-depth discussion of young adults with cancer and the similarities they share with young adults with chronic illness, see my review of Rosenthal’s new book, Everything Changes.

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