3 biggest challenges of having cancer as a young adult

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No one welcomes a cancer diagnosis, but for adolescents and young adults it’s particularly traumatic.

Mike Lang, a Canadian cancer survivor, understands this all too well. He was newly married and pursuing his dream career when he was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 25. It turned his world upside down.

Lang says that apart from the physical effects of treatment, there were other challenges unique to people in his age group. Here he describes the challenges and offers advice on overcoming them.

Fertility. Cancer treatment can make you infertile. Lang took part in fertility preservation, which cost $400 every year to even have the continued possibility of having kids. It’s stressful knowing that these options may not work and you may not be able to conceive with your partner. His advice is to be proactive with your doctor about fertility preservation prior to treatment, and discuss these fertility challenges with your partner as early as possible in your relationship.

Social isolation. At a time when you’re focusing on building relationships, cancer and its treatments make it hard to relate to others. You often cannot participate in activities like you used to. Lang had to move away from my friends, which made him feel isolated and detached from the social network he’d worked so hard to build. His advice is for young patients to try to connect with peers also living with cancer. It’s good to be around people who are going through the same things as you.

Financial challenges. Lang and his wife were pursuing careers when suddenly he became unable to contribute. While he recovered from cancer treatment, it was difficult to get back into the workforce. Lang suffered fatigue and it took two years to recover his confidence. This was lost time and he fell behind in a competitive workforce. His advice is to seek programs that help young people returning to work and consider career counselling.

A recent report by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer takes at a closer look at how cancer impacts adolescents and young adults and the psychosocial impact of the disease. You can read the report at www.systemperformance.ca/aya-nc.