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The “Too Young’’ Club

by Samantha RodriguezSurvivor, Breast CancerApril 4, 2023View more posts from Samantha Rodriguez

The “Too Young’’ Club

The adolescent and young adult cancer community is one I never dreamed of being a part of. We see it in the movies, on television, or on social media, always depicted as young children or individuals ages 50+. We are told constantly that we are “too young” to have cancer. Here’s the thing, cancer does not discriminate between too young or too old, too male or too female, or too rich or too poor. I wish people knew or begin to realize that being “too young” is no longer a factor when it comes to cancer.

I was 28 when I got diagnosed with stage 2 triple positive breast cancer. I was considered a healthy and active young adult. I had no previous medical history, conditions, or health issues. They say I am “too young,” but I still heard the news, “I’m sorry to tell you, we found cancer.” The looks and stares you get at the medical offices are obvious. Everyone I came across at the doctor’s office, surgeon’s office, hospitals, or clinics was older than me by 25-30+ years. We all shared the same battle, but while they were accompanied by their spouses or children, I was with my parents. I underwent 6 rounds of TCHP chemotherapy, a double mastectomy surgery, 25 rounds of radiation, and 14 rounds of Kadcyla. I experienced extreme pain, discomfort, nausea, stress, panic, and sadness. I also experienced the most love, support, and kindness I had ever witnessed in my lifetime. My friends, family, and colleagues came together and uplifted me when I felt I could not continue on.

However, it was another AYA patient that saved me halfway through my TCHP chemotherapy. It was getting harder, more miserable, and I was losing so much weight. I got to Facetime with my new friend, Kimberley, and she told me, “This is only temporary, you CAN do it.” That was a game-changer for me. My family had seen me cry, give up, and witnessed every minute of my suffering. As much as they emotionally suffered as my caregivers, they could not fully understand it all. Kimberley saved me that day. She was a few steps ahead of me in her treatment and told me what it was like. All it took was another AYA patient to hear me and fully understand me.

Why do people need to know this? It is because I have come across “too many” patients like myself that were “too young.” They tell us there is no way we could have cancer. There are too many AYAs who have been turned away, told to come back later, or just not listened to because of our age. Yet, we are the ones getting these diagnoses of cancer. They need to hear our stories so we can prevent other AYAs from having to join our club. Screening and prevention are vital, but it only works if all ages have access to it without bias or denials.

To any newly diagnosed AYA patient, I want to tell you this: I see you, I hear you, and I understand you. This journey is not easy or fun. While other young adults are at the club, we are at chemo. While other young adults are tanning in the sun, we are getting tan at radiation. This community is not one someone willingly wants to ever be a part of, but I can tell you it’s a great one to be in once you are diagnosed. This is a community of AYAs who fully understand your struggle. While the struggles and journeys may look different, the core issue is the same. We are here to listen, vent, laugh, cry, and make light of the situations we are in. Cancer humor is unmatched! So, I say this: “Welcome to the club!” We’ve got your back and embrace you as you enter into this journey.

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