No one ever thinks that it will happen to them. On March 12th 2012, I went from being a three sport high school senior to being a full time cancer patient. My life forever changed by the three little words – “you have cancer”. My entire world was flipped upside down, a crisis no teenager should face yet so many do today. Prior to my diagnosis I was living a good life, but looking back I now realize my disease gave me purpose. I always knew my mission was to serve others, but cancer allowed me to find my true passion in life. Cancer taught me that everything happens for a reason, a philosophy I will carry with me forever.
Without my diagnosis I would have never attended Michigan State University where I met lifelong mentors and friends. I would have never been a part of so many influential groups while there such as Spartans Fighting Cancer, American Cancer Society, First Descents, the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation, and Wish Upon a Teen. I would have never met such inspirational individuals who became my best friends, the ones who truly understand what I went through and the struggles that continue every day in the world of survivorship. Cancer gave me so much more than it took away.
But let’s not stop there and paint a pretty picture, being involved in the world of cancer is not easy. There were times I did not know if I made the right choice attending college while undergoing treatment, times that challenged my every fiber and tried to break me. I have lost so many dear friends to this disease, a constant reminder of where my journey could have led. I have been faced with the label of being “disabled”, with the many side effects that will continue to affect my life. The lack of support for young adults facing cancer is astonishing – a reality that I am fighting every day to change.
I am a cancer survivor but that is not my whole story, I am so much more than that. Throughout the last 6 years of my life I have graduated high school, graduated college with a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology, and I am currently in my first year of my Master’s program at Grand Valley State University pursuing a degree in Higher Education College Student Affairs Leadership. I am also a graduate assistant for GVSU in the Office of Community Engagement and a freshman success instructor. Now, at 23 years old, I finally understand what I was meant to do. I believe that getting sick so young in life helped me see what is truly important and changed my vision for my future.
I am so passionate about helping others through the challenges they may face in their life, specifically the challenges they may face as teenagers and young adults. Support for young adults going through challenges such as cancer or a life threatening illness should not be an afterthought for educators, it should be an expectation that it is offered. My goal is to one day provide academic, emotional, and social support for young adults in college specifically.
Young adults are the forgotten age group in the support for cancer. I remember my 18thbirthday; I spent it in an ER after being rushed in for side effects to my treatment. I remember signing my first medical form, consenting for treatment and feeling the weight of my reality hit. I was far too young to be dealing with this disease and after the clock hit midnight all medical decisions came to me.
Support for young adults with cancer needs to be advocated for because the reality is the number of people my age getting this disease is increasing every day. Medical support is important, but social and emotional support is crucial for allowing teenagers to live with their cancer in the past, present, and future.
- Kate Rendi