Friday, June 6, 2008

Surviving Cancer

Medical research is continuing to discover how little we actually know about teen cancers, and how differently teens and young adults are responding to treatments. There is still very little understanding on why this is true. The cancers tend to be more advanced when diagnosed, move faster through the body, and less responsive to treatments. Treatments require higher doses of chemo, creating more intense and longer lasting side effects than both their younger and older counterparts. Research is just beginning to look into this. The very first tissue bank to study teen cancers is just in the beginning stages.

However there are issues that go well beyond the medical as these young men and women fight for their lives. Cancer is bad. It is always bad, no matter what age it effects. But it seems to me that there is little understanding of the unique struggles that teenagers face. Unlike the younger children, teens have a full understanding of the life and death struggle they are in. But unlike the older adults, they do not have the perspective or life experiences to help them through this battle for their life. They experience all the anxiety typical of teenagers, experience all the frustration of their plans and dreams getting put on hold, all this while experiencing the full range of emotions of both both children and adults going through during this struggle.

Try to remember back to the experience of entering adulthood. It is filled with every extreme of joy, anger, passion, fear, excitement, ambition, and questions. Then, just at that moment, cancer comes along. Dreams are put on hold, life becomes a glass bubble with everyone watching, and questions go further than you could have ever imagined. There are tears and fears and rage. Even an occasional flying object. And many hours of prayers.

These young people lived in a world where their biggest worry was passing their driver's licence exam, or who they would ask to prom. Suddenly, as a doctor walks through the door, their world becomes filled with questions of will I ever marry, have children, hold a job, go to college, or even live long enough to kiss a girl or fall in love. Even as they improve, the reality sets in of all the time and experiences they have lost. Will they fit back into the "real" world? Will their life ever again become normal? Will they be treated normal? As an adult, I would find this overwhelming. Thinking as a teenager, it is far beyond my ability to comprehend. Yet every morning these young people face this Hell the moment they open their eyes. And they fight another day. Day after day after day. Many will survive, and many will not. But there is one constant and undeniable fact...everyone of these kids is a hero's. But most importantly, they are not super hero's. The bullets do not bounce off them. The pain is real. And it is deep. These are human hero's. They feel the pain just as you and I would, and yet they keep fighting. They are hero's in the truest sense of the word. It has been my privilege to know so many. I am proud to be called Tyler's dad.

There is a petition circulating to bring more public attention to these stories, with the result of more funding for research into these young cancers. This part of the story needs to be told. If you agree, you can sign the petition at

Team in Training: Still right on schedule. 52 miles down. 421 to the starting line in October.

1 comment:

Kylee said...

Nicely put.