On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had an article about Imerman Angels (http://www.imermanangels.org) , a Chicago based organization that pairs a mentor with a newly diagnosed person with cancer. The organization matches the mentor and the newly diagnosed patient based on as many parameters as possible, but most importantly age and type of cancer. The implementation of a mentor program is critical when you consider the way healthcare has changed. Yes, technology and research have increased the treatment options and prognosis for patients so now it’s time to pay attention to the person with the diagnosis; their emotional, spiritual and even their practical questions about living with the disease.
The startling part of the article was about survival rates, “…cancer survival among patients ages 25 to 35 hasn’t improved since 1975, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some cancers are less responsive to treatment in young adults than in other age groups. But those patients may be less likely to seek immediate help for symptoms, resulting in a delayed diagnosis, and they often lack insurance.” This is both sad and disturbing. I understand it developmentally; young people don’t believe they’re going to die so a symptom is something stupid that will go away. Unfortunately the other part of the equation, lack of health insurance is an obstacle that has to be addressed. If survival rates haven’t improved for this age group in 34 years then we’ve got a lot to do to change how things are being done.
No matter your diagnosis, finding someone who has blazed the trail is enormously helpful. Having a go-to person who can let you know about the bumps in the road before they happen is a gift of tremendous proportion. Most importantly, having someone who is living proof of what life can be like after your diagnosis provides hope, reduces isolation, and gives you the strength to make the tough choices that come with any diagnosis. Look for a mentor by contacting the nonprofit organization either on the local or national level that represents those with your diagnosis.