Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) and a team of Memorial University researchers led by Dr. Sheila Garland hope to bring the challenges faced by individuals in their late teens, 20s and 30s to the forefront in a new study aimed at exploring their challenges and compare them to their non-cancer peers.
“In those young adult years, you’re really laying the foundation for the rest of your life. Finishing school, starting careers, starting family, this kind of stuff sets you up for the rest of your life,” says Geoff Eaton, YACC’s executive director and two-time young adult cancer survivor.
“When you throw a cancer diagnosis amidst that, it creates extra unique challenges. It’s not more difficult. Cancer’s a big challenge no matter when it comes, but for young adult’s it’s different and that’s because life is different.”
The aim of the nation-wide YAC Prime Study is to identify those differences and use that information to change and enhance the programs, services and supports offered by YACC.
Eaton says the plan is to make it the single biggest study of its kind in Canada, with a goal of 600 participants. It’s not limited to individuals currently in the 15 to 39 age group, but also older individuals who also dealt with young adult cancer in their lifetime.
“We would encourage any young adult who has participated, no matter how far they are from their experience, we want to know what the challenges they faced were or are still to this day and they can make a real meaningful difference and contribute to this big effort,” says Eaton.
After registering at yacprime.ca, respondents will be surveyed about their psychosocial space, physical well-being, health, financial and their connections to YACC.
“We’re going to ask those kinds of questions so we get a really well-rounded picture of who they are as a person and what their cancer experience has been like and how it’s influenced them to this moment.”
Friday’s event as part of the YACC’s 11th annual Survivor Conference in St. John’s is the launch of the study’s second phase, following on a pilot project using a smaller group of established clients.
Phase 3, Eaton says, will be to identify who they’ve missed, particularly those who aren’t familiar with YACC, and reach out to them.
Eaton says this year’s conference is the largest with close to 100 young adults from across the country; almost half of them are new to the organization. The four-day event is aimed at breaking down the isolation often felt by young adults with cancer, sharing stories, while also gaining practical tools like managing debt, anxiety and learning, “how to manage the cognitive challenges of chemotherapy and retrain your brain after treatment.
“Really what’s going to happen is they’re going to find out that they are in the YACC network and very tightly connected by the time they leave here Monday morning,” he says.
“We’re like the Hotel California of Cancer; they can check out any time they want, but they can never leave.”