Young Adult Cancer

For every amazing, caring friend, there’s another who has drifted away. The one who wholeheartedly promised, “if you need anything, I’m here,” and wasn’t. There are just some friends, for whatever reason, who won’t be there for you, even if you really want them or need them in your corner.
FOMO, the abbreviated slang meaning “fear of missing out,” is a huge mental and emotional side effect of being a young adult cancer survivor and represents just a sliver of the unique challenges we have to face during and well after the fight of our lives.

My early twenties were everything I imagined they would be. They were fun, filled with life and discovery, naive in the best of ways, connected by travels, and laced with endless dreams. This was until I hit a road block at age 25. Cancer stood in my tracks. What was I to do?

If you’re a woman under 40, you’re probably not thinking about menopause. But for young women who have had cancer, treatment-induced ovarian failure – often referred to as “chemopause” – is a very realistic concern.
For me, the negative results meant we still couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong, and I'd have to be poked and prodded with more needles.
Waiting to turn 21 as a member of the millennial generation is a rite of passage with a whole slew of traditions. For me, it was drinking a margarita at midnight on a Tuesday while doing advertising homework, enjoying a birthday cake with a drunk look-alike Barbie doll adorned by liquor shots and finally using those alcoholic emojis on Facebook without fear of legal repercussion.
When people ask how I am doing or what my cancer experience was like, I struggle to find the words. I struggle because everyone seems to have been touched by this devastating disease. They themselves may have fought cancer, lost a loved one too soon, met someone whose life was changed by the disease, or rallied behind a stranger through social media. We are all incredibly connected and aware of struggles and celebrations in the lives of others.
Having such a simple question asked a certain way can really humanize you during a time when normalcy seems like the distant past. I was still Mary. I still had the same parents, same car and same clothes. Why should being a little extra sick make a difference?
Buffalo native, Roy Vongtama, MD, is a board-certified radiation oncologist, a working actor, and an executive producer. His impressive yet unconventional career is the result of an unwillingness to settle. “I refused to believe I could only be one thing,” he said.
With Young Adult Cancer Awareness week upon us, we wanted to highlight some of our young adult survivors and their inspirational stories. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy, nor are the challenges you may face during and after your treatment. We encourage you to read the advice of these young patients and share your own story of hope.
To kick off National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week (NYACAW) I’m headed to Roswell Park’s Annual Young Adult Wellness Retreat this Saturday to speak with patients and survivors about important topics that impact their lives.
During my cancer journey, I relied heavily on peer support. I needed to vent my feelings to someone who knew exactly what I was going through. I needed advice from young patients who walked this path before and understood the obstacles and emotional strain I dealt with on a daily basis.