VIDEO: How Young Adults’ Identities Change Post-Cancer

Karen Fasciano, PsyD, meets with patient Lauren Leonard.
Karen Fasciano, PsyD, meets with patient Lauren Leonard.

Imagine your life ahead of you. You may have seemingly endless possibilities, a carefree attitude, and a sense of immortality that often comes with youth.

Then imagine being hit with the unthinkable: a cancer diagnosis. This is the reality approximately 70,000 young adults in the United States face each year. They transform from “normal” 20- and 30-somethings concerned with developing careers, dating, and shaping their futures, into people whose lives are built around doctor’s appointments and anxiety-invoking scans. Friends and family, despite their best intentions, find it difficult to completely understand.

“Cancer generally isn’t on young adults’ radar,” says Karen Fasciano, PsyD, director of Dana-Farber’s Young Adult Program, which provides supportive services and counseling to patients between the ages of 18 and 39. “A diagnosis can make many young adults feel isolated from their peers, who haven’t had similar experiences, and makes mortality a very real concept for young people.”

A group of young Dana-Farber patients of various ages, with different diagnoses and in different stages of their lives, came together to talk about the ways their identities have changed after being diagnosed with cancer. In the video below, they share their unique knowledge in hopes of informing and educating their peers, friends, and family about what it’s like to have cancer as a young adult.