Program reaches out to teens and young adults dealing with cancer


by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 Healthlink

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Posted on July 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 1 at 9:05 PM

At a trendy South Lake Union restaurant, a recent meetup, called YACFest, was created especially for young adult cancer patients and survivors. At an age when peer support is everything, their treatment has left them isolated.

"Because the cancers that occur in this age group, say 15 to 29, are very diverse, there are young adult patients at University of Washington, at Swedish, at Virginia Mason, at Children's." explained Seattle Children's oncology nurse Leah Kroon.

Now the patients and survivors are meeting each thanks to Kroon. She helped launch Seattle Children's Young Adult Cancer Program. The meetup was just one of the ways the program is tailoring care to this age group.

Kroon enlisted the help of former patients, such as Heather Krich. She was treated at Seattle Children's four years ago. Krich thought doctors could improve communicating to young patients.

"It gets really tiring to have doctors tell you what the side effects are going to be when they haven't been through it," said Krich.

So the Young Adult Cancer Program created educational videos, called Good Times and Bald Times. Patients hear from their peers what to expect.

"We're not going to sugar coat it. This is what you're going to go through. But you're going to come out the other side just fine," said Krich who participated in the videos.

The program also encourages patients to cope through art. That led to production of a YouTube sensation, a video called Stronger, created by 22 year old leukemia patient Chris Rumble, and starring young cancer patients.

YACFest challenged survivors to recharge their passion for life. The event connected them to many services offered to young cancer patients, with the focus on adventure. 

"I can whitewater kayak, or I can climb 300 feet with one leg," said cancer survivor Ryan Shupe. He was treated at Seattle Children's and emceed the YACFest event.

"If our young people tell us that they don't feel completely alone through this experience, then I would say we've been a success," said Leah Kroon.
    Ebb & Flow Cancer Survivors, Desolation Sound

overwhelming at the beginning learning about all these medications"