I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in May 2008, the same week I graduated high school. At the time of my diagnosis, the standard treatment plan for Hodgkin lymphoma lasted 6 to 8 months, which would have derailed my plans to attend college that fall.
My Dana-Farber oncologist took my concerns to heart and gave me the option of enrolling in a clinical trial which would drastically change my treatment plan to three months chemotherapy instead six months. Thanks to the clinical trial, I was able to attend college that fall and can now say that I am 10 years cancer-free.
I feel so fortunate that my family and I received the care and support that we did. As a way to give back, I still visit Dana-Farber once a month to volunteer for the Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council (Pedi PFAC), which is a group of former pediatric patients and caregivers that offer their voice and perspective to inform decision-making at Dana-Farber.
As a member of Pedi PFAC, my personal goal is make sure patients and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis know that support is available to them. As a survivor, I would like to share a few personal tips that helped me:
- Tell your friends and family what you need from them
When faced with a cancer diagnosis, it can be hard to know what to say or do. I found that by telling my family and friends what I needed, they were able to act in a way that was more helpful to me. I would encourage others to do the same.
- Don’t forget to celebrate life
Celebrate every milestone – the end of cancer treatment, 1 year in remission, or 10 years. I found that it was important to stay positive and thankful for the little moments.
- Consider joining a support group
As a teenager dealing with a cancer diagnosis, I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my family or friends about certain hardships such as dating, fertility, the fear of relapse, or even death. It wasn’t until I found a support group that I realized my feelings were very normal among other cancer patients. It was comforting to know that someone else was experiencing the same things that I was.
I found a sense of community through the Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council, but Dana-Farber has several resources and support groups that are available to patients and families. Learn more about opportunities to get involved and apply to be a member of the Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council.
Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council volunteer