Ligaya King via Crowdrise
February 04, 2012
It’s not okay!
It's not okay that every 8 minutes, a young adult is diagnosed with cancer and every hour a young adult loses their battle to cancer. Cancer is now the #1 disease killer in young adults.
I’ve been known to take a midday cat nap and one fateful day I woke up scratching my legs and feet like crazy. After the itchiness persisted for more than a week I went to my primary care doctor who kept asking me about a rash that did not exist, did blood work that came back normal and sent me on my way to a dermatologist. Dermatologist’s diagnosis: eczema. Antidote: shorter, cooler showers, less soap and vaseline (lots of vaseline). I felt dirty. I felt gross. And I felt worse.
I only saw that dermatologist and his voodoo medicine twice before I turned 23 and lost my health insurance. Off to fend for myself I began to uncontrollably cough (usually in your face) and once I started it was difficult to stop or catch my breath and each time I would nearly vomit or pass out. I dreaded anything funny because laughing got the coughing fits started too. It became difficult to breathe while laying down flat and I usually had to sleep nestled in the corner of our couch or steal pillows when everyone went to work to create a pillow “teepee” to perch myself upright. I remember sending a text one night that said “I’m afraid this is going to be something I can’t handle or afford.”
Shortly after that text I found myself in the ER, my heart and lungs were surrounded by immediately life threatening amounts of fluid, a huge tumor in my chest and lesions in my liver. I was finally diagnosed with stage IV Primary Mediastinal Large B Cell Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I started chemo immediately and all was going well until ... it wasn’t. I stopped responding to chemo. I was immediately put on salvage chemo (the first of which failed too) and shuffled off to have stem cell transplant. In conjunction with the stem cell transplant I participated in a clinical trial for Bexxar which made me radioactive (but not a superhero, I thought I should at least glow green or something). On 09/09/09 I finally heard the sweet word “remission.”
Thankfully, I never felt lost or lonely during treatment. I thought being a cancer survivor and not a cancer patient would be the easy part. Being a survivor is really just the beginning. I thought life would continue as normal. When it was all said and done, everyone just diffused back into the real world but my world had changed. I had changed. I just needed to be in the presence of people who get "IT".
That's what I found at the I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, the largest support community of young adult survivors and caregivers in the US. Online at http://StupidCancer.com, they give survivors like me a voice and raise awareness for the unique issues that I face as a young adult; issues like isolation, fertility, sexuality, dating, insurance, career building and more.
Their annual conference, the OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults, is a pivotal event that brings together hundreds of young adult survivors and caregivers for a one-of-a-kind experience of healing, education and community. No one should go through cancer alone. The OMG! Cancer Summit makes this possible.
Please support my efforts to ensure that I and other survivors like me get the chance to attend this event and make a difference for so many thousands of young adults in need.
Here is what others have had to say about this event in the past:
“The OMG! Summit taught me to keep fighting, be my own advocate and never give up, no matter what the doctor says.”
“Through the OMG! Summit, I made so many new connections. I can't wait to spread more awareness about young adult cancer.”
“What an amazing, life-changing and inspiring weekend.”
"I loved meeting new people at the OMG! Summit. Seeing old friends and being inspired by the enormity of our community has helped me to get buys living."