“It’s Not Your Grandpa’s Cancer!"
Now that I have your attention, let me tell you my story. Imagine being diagnosed at age 18 with a disease that normally effects 70 year olds. With no disrespect intended toward the over 65 crowd, I was stunned.
When the word Mesothelioma was said, I had to Google it. I didn’t even know how to spell it. That’s how far away the idea of having cancer, let alone one I had never even heard of, was from my brain. Pain, surgeries, months of feeling awful, and chemotherapy are just some of the assaults I had to deal with.
After two years of what felt like hell, at the ripe old age of 20, I was forced by my good intentioned parents to attend my first Meet Up. Why did I need to go? I was handling it. I even made jokes about it. I was dealing with it in my own way. But what I found out was, it wasn’t about needing emotional support, it was about finding others who could relate. Friends and family were sympathetic but hadn’t been there.
As I began building relationships with other young people in the support group, I realized that cancer didn’t just affect older people. I wasn’t the only young person there. There were lots of us and we all needed to connect. Maybe I could even help other young patients with cancer by spreading the word about Moffitt’s awesome Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Program.
So now, I am a peer visitor. I visit patients and sometimes caregivers. I talk about the program but mostly I listen.
People ask me why I do it. It gives me perspective. It helps me find meaning in suffering and gives me a sense of purpose.
If anyone wants to chill with me, contact the Patient and Family Advisory Program. They are always accepting applications!
For more information about Meet Up, call 813-745-8407.
Become a Peer Visitor
The Patient & Family Advisory Program is looking for Peer Visitors. These specially-trained patients or family members establish unique relationships with other patients and families and relate to experiences with the cancer journey. If you are interested in learning more about being a Peer Visitor, please call 813-745-1390.
Content for this story is from PARTNERS winter 2015; a newsletter of the Patient and Family Advisory Program. For more information about the Patient and Family Advisory Program, please email Kim.Buettner@Moffit.org or call 813-745-1390.