Supporting Young Adults in their fight against Cancer
When Colby Wedel was diagnosed with cancer she was determined to go on with her life as normal. Those battling cancer often find courage by defying the disease as it tries to consume every part of their lives, and this simple act of seeking normalcy can empower patients to persevere in difficult times. It was for this reason that Wedel jumped at the opportunity to help form a Young Adult Support Group assisted by the Stephenson Cancer Center, so that others might benefit from strength that can only come from camaraderie and an active lifestyle.
“A lot of young people had joined the Stephenson Board of Advocates, and we started talking about how most support groups are tailored to the type of disease, not age.” Wedel says of the support group’s origins, “We wanted somewhere we could hang out with people who get these things, and not necessarily talk about our feelings if we didn’t want to.” She says, “The goal is to show people that there are other young adults just like them who are going through similar things, and they’re having fun.”
The support group’s organizers were committed to the idea of making a social environment that was as open and natural as possible for patients, which led to an unconventional approach that emphasizes team building and relationships rather than circular conversations about feelings and trauma. The result was a support group that allows members to enjoy the company of others while taking part in activities that help them forget about being sick. Instead of forcing strangers to share their life stories, the group builds friendships, and allows for a more organic support that arises naturally.
“It’s all about attitude.” Wedel says, “I’m a huge believer in living your life and being happy, and with a positive attitude, I don’t think you don’t get as sick. I don’t have any medical degrees or scientific research to back that up, but through myself, and watching other people, it seems like the patients who stay home and hid from the issues seem to end up making themselves sicker. Now everyone is going to have bad days and days when staying home in a quiet room is the most important thing, but I think how you recover from those days is just as important. It’s the attitude change, and you have to talk yourself through that. Yeah the last couple days might have been pretty terrible, but today is a new day, and it’s ok to enjoy it.”
For Wedel, social support and patient empowerment is the difference between a successful cancer treatment center and a poor one, and Stephenson’s effort to back the young adult support group is just one of many ways the center works to fulfil those expectations.
“For me, I was adamant about living my life exactly as I had been.” Wedel says, “It’s important to have a group that doesn’t let you just sit at home. If you don’t show up they’ll ask why, they’ll want to know if you’re ok, if you’re feeling alright, and just pull you up. You don’t need to stay in that dark place, you can get out, have fun, and be normal.”