AYA Cancer Awareness Month: Patient Spotlight

Adolescents and young adults (AYA) who are currently being treated for cancer or who have completed cancer treatment have different emotional and social needs than their younger counterparts. They face a frightening diagnosis and treatment during what is already a time of great physical, social and emotional change. Chops Cancer Center provides special services and resources to meet the unique emotional needs of AYAs being treated for cancer. In honor of AYA Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like you to meet some of our AYAs who share insight into their cancer journey.

Ellie, 18, diagnosed with medulloblastoma

Ellie was diagnosed in February 2019. She completed her treatment in September 2019 and is going to the CHOP Cancer Center for checkups and follow-up visits.

Q. Who/What is helping you through your cancer treatment?

A. Well! Also the wonderful child life specialists and music therapists – the “quality of life” team. Family and community support, like my friends who came into the hospital (pre-COVID, of course!) to see me for my birthday! Also, positivity and being positive myself.

Q. What is the hardest thing you face during your treatment?

A. NEEDLES! And having a new family – the nurses are great, but I missed my real family and real friends. Not being able to go home and see all these people supporting you, feeling stuck all the time.

Q. What advice do you have for young cancer patients?

A. Prepare and don’t give up. A chaplain told me: “Life is a journey, and you have to take it step by step. It has become my motto!

Q. What is one aspect of being treated in a children’s hospital as a teenager?

A. It’s cute to see babies, but it can be difficult to see them sick. Also, teen rooms and teen groups help because sometimes you can feel too old with the kid stuff around.

Kevin, 17, with osteosarcoma

Kevin is currently undergoing treatment for a recurrent osteosarcoma. He was initially diagnosed in June 2020.

Q. Who/What is helping you through your cancer treatment?

A. Close family, relatives. At first I wanted to keep it private from my friends. My mom is the MOST helpful in all of this, but also my friend-turned-girlfriend has become a pillar of support!

Q. What is the hardest thing you face during your treatment?

A. I say mainly the social aspect, the school and trying to maintain a regular life. Like I wanted to go to the gym when the quarantine started and then with the diagnosis I couldn’t do that. And the school – luckily it was virtual, which helped, but it’s a lot to maintain. Just the aspect of not being able to do all those things you want to do with your friends.

Q. What advice do you have for young cancer patients?

A. Keep a steady state of mind! To help the time pass, enjoy the people you meet and those who work at the hospital. Try to stay normal as you can get into a deep trench or dark place unless you try to maintain a positive frame of mind.

Q. What is one aspect of being treated in a children’s hospital as a teenager?

A. Meet some employees you get to know (early childhood, triage, my nurses, doctors). There are so many personalities in the world of health! The kids need all that energy, and sometimes it even helps to watch the little kids interact with the team here. Also, if you are interested in the field (I am in paramedic), take advantage of it and learn!

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