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World Cancer Day 2015 – What Does It Mean to You?

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Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 4th, is World Cancer Day 2015. Survivors, physicians, caregivers, and researchers around the world come together to raise awareness and encourage governments to take action in the fight against cancer.

This global initiative is an important one, but what does World Cancer Day mean for you, one of the 630,000 young adult survivors living in the United States? We know you’re trying to get back on track, and likely trying to recover from the financial devastation of treatment. We know that the last thing you may want to do is spend another minute – let alone an entire day – thinking more about cancer than you already have, but today is all about raising awareness of the key elements of survivorship.

What’s different about World Cancer Day this year is that it’s centered around four themes, each critical to young adults and all about making positive strides to move forward as we deal with cancer personally and globally – and at The SAMFund we are all for moving forward!

Achieving Treatment for All

The World Cancer Day website states that “All people have the right to access quality, effective cancer treatment and services on equal terms, regardless of geography and without suffering economic hardship as a consequence.”

“Without suffering economic hardship as a consequence” – wouldn’t that be nice? The unfortunate reality is, as you know all too well, that’s generally not the case. Cancer can wreak as much havoc on your finances as it does on your body.

We’ve been proud to be a part of the conversation about the cost of cancer for a long time, and in recent months this important topic is finally getting the attention it deserves. A recent 60 Minutes piece focused on the astronomical cost of cancer drugs, and we are glad to see that conversations have continued.

The SAMFund offers a lot of resources for young adults struggling to recover financially from cancer: direct assistance, free webinars on a variety of topics, and our new Finances 101 Toolkit. We’re hopeful that someday, cancer costs will be under control. But in the meantime, we’re glad we can help you get back on your feet after treatment.

Choosing Healthy Lives

Getting a clean bill of health after cancer treatment is the ultimate goal for any patient. But staying healthy is as important as getting healthy, and for a lot of survivors, it’s not always easy. To start, did you know that one in ten cancer survivors continues smoking after treatment?  Yikes! You know the drill: smoking leads to a litany of health problems, including cancer – and who needs any more of that? Not to mention, smoking is expensive! If you smoke a pack a day, you’re spending an average of over $2,000 a year on cigarettes.

(Psst – if you do smoke and want to quit, this is a good place to start.)

At The SAMFund, we know healthy living makes a world of difference when it comes to recovering from the effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. We have resources for healthy eating on a budget, and each year we give grants for gym memberships, yoga classes, mental health care and more. Our friends at Livestrong have partnered with the YMCA to deliver a no-cost, 12-week wellness program for cancer survivors that focuses on recovery and health.

Delivering Early Detection

There’s no doubt about it – early detection saves lives. Early detection of breast, cervical, skin and colon cancers are particularly important for young adults, who all face far worse health outcomes when these diseases are detected at later stages.

The words “early detection” can call to mind images of expensive tests and doctor appointments, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many common screenings are covered by insurance, and free and low-cost screenings are often available for those who meet certain risk criteria. For example, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery offers a searchable database of dermatologists willing to do free screenings, and other resources are just a Google search away! A good tip: during specific cancer awareness months, free and low-cost screens tend to be more readily available. It’s a good idea to look for screening sites for breast cancer in October, or colon cancer in March.

Maximizing Quality of Life

Quality of life after cancer means a lot of different things. To young adults, it can mean relief from debt and financial hardship, or regaining physical strength and feeling good again. It might mean getting back into the dating scene, finding career success, or having a family.

There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and it can be hard to think about quality of life when you’re struggling to get by. We’re here to help, and with great partners like Critical Mass, Triage Cancer, and Cancer & Careers, we want you to know – especially today – that you are never alone.

For all young adult survivors nationwide, this World Cancer Day means talking about financial toxicity and continuing to provide resources for young adults. It means moving forward.

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