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How to navigate cancer as a young adult

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How to navigate cancer as a young adult_melanoma patient JPG.JPGBy Brian Rose

Brian Rose has battled melanoma for nearly three years. He has experienced multiple rounds of biochemotherapy, surgeries and radiation therapy, and participated in clinical trials. With a positive perspective and the support of his family and friends, Brian continues his journey one day at a time. He blogs about his cancer experience at www.howsbrian.com.  

A cancer diagnosis at any age presents a seemingly impossible amount of instant adversity. As a young adult, however, a cancer diagnosis can open a floodgate of scenarios that can quickly back you into what feels like a very lonely corner of the universe.

When I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma at age 32, I was overwhelmed with fear. I don't think it's possible for a person to hear the words "you have cancer" and not immediately begin to consider the inevitable reality that affects all living creatures, but for you, it could come sooner than expected. On top of that, I had no health insurance and was limited financially.

After the initial shock, I quickly realized it was time for action. I felt like I needed to hurry up and start treatment. In my haste, I remember looking myself in the mirror and convincing myself to slow down. The key, I suppose, is to find a balance somewhere between urgent and patient.

Most importantly, you cannot allow cancer to take over your life.



Reach out for help
To fight cancer you will need help. For me, that meant reaching out to family and close friends.

As a former U.S. Marine and current professional baseball coach, I knew that surrounding myself with the right team could be a real game-changer. What I understand now is that my demeanor, attitude and perspective ultimately set the tone for my family and support system. If I'm panicked and worried, they're panicked and worried. If I'm positive, optimistic and ready to fight, they'll all follow my lead.

A support team is a valuable commodity. Don't ever be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. You may be surprised by the results.

Find an expert healthcare team
Having the right team of health care professionals plays a crucial role.

We're so reliant on our doctors, nurses and other medical staff to guide us through the uncharted territory of cancer. Trust, confidence and knowledge are essential, as we have enough to worry about away from the clinic.

Research and advice from an oncologist in Austin, Texas, told me to get to MD Anderson. Without insurance it took persistence to get in the doors, but it was well worth the effort. My health care team at MD Anderson is knowledgeable and passionate. I'm where I'm supposed to be.

Be an active participant

My approach is to be an active participant in my health care. I have a strong sense of personal responsibility as a cancer patient. I want to create the ultimate "canvas" for my doctors to work their magic. This includes simple things like maintaining a reasonably healthy diet, exercising and being on time to appointments.

I also feel obligated to keep myself informed and educated by taking the time to research new ideas or new options for treatment. Although I recognize that my doctors are the experts, I want to be engaged in the decisions and I want to fully understand the goals we're trying to achieve. When I'm prepared for my appointments, I've found that the visits are much more efficient and productive.

Ultimately, cancer has endless challenges emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. It sounds so cliché, but we must find a way to maintain a positive perspective, especially when times are tough. I've found peace through the support of my wife, family and close friends.

I'm incredibly grateful for the gift that each day brings. I don't allow this disease to dictate who I am or what I'm capable of. I will decide that, one day, one moment and one second at a time.

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