On a microscopic level, cancer starts with free radicals, a molecule that has an unmatched energy composition at the subatomic level. Free radicals have enormous potential for change. Positive, negative, or neutral outcomes occur depending on the context in which they are present. In animal tissues, certain amounts of free radicals are normal but an excess amount can cause the progression (growth) of cancer. Cancer is a life-altering disease that initiates questions of morality such as how long do I have left? Can I survive this? And, how am I going to overcome this alone? Answering these questions is not simple. Understanding comes from personal cancer stories, while support groups open up the dialogue of recovery and miracles. Dr. Leon A. Schein, an Adjunct Instructor for Preventative Medicine and Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, talked about the benefits of support groups for people with Cancer, “There is evidence that support group participation enhances the quality of life.”
For Geoff Eaton a two-time cancer survivor, support was the foundation upon which he grew. His cancer story started shortly after he graduated from Memorial University. Being awarded a Bachelor of Business Commerce he was eager to start his adult life, gain independence and work towards a career. At the age of 22, Geoff was diagnosed with Leukemia and given a 2% survival rate. Support groups were part of his therapy during this process and through them he identified a lack of relevant support for people his age. The lack of proper support was the impetus that created RealTime Cancer, an online platform that enabled him to connect with people facing the same challenges. Geoff stated that, “Leukemia, has caused a series of profound changes, deeper understanding and more reflection at an early age. In the early years of leukemia I viewed cancer as something I had to fight.”
As Geoff recovered, he wanted to grow support for young people with cancer and he founded Young Adult Cancer Canada, a non-profit organization that aims to bring young people with cancer out of isolation. Founding Y.A.C.C. came with remission, “During remission cancer became my companion. I sat with it. I got to know it. I trusted the process.” Living through cancer twice has allowed Geoff to observe his thoughts at different stages of his life. Despite the odds he has manifested an organization that has made significant change. For his non-wavering efforts, he was awarded Entrepreneur of the
year in 2010.
Young Adult Cancer Canada’s (Y.A.C.C.) aim is to support young adults as they move through and beyond cancer, to connect peers and to be the bridge out of isolation. To facilitate their mission Y.A.C.C. offers retreats and community events such as shave for the brave. These events grow advocacy in the community and increase connections amongst people dealing with cancer. In one event, a young man’s diagnosis of cancer led to his hockey team and rival team shaving their heads in solidarity. This level of unity and understanding is the crux of Y.A.C.C.’s efforts to bridge gaps and bring the young people with cancer out of isolation.
Geoff’s passion for sharing his and other cancer survivors’ stories has mobilized cancer awareness metaphorically from a free radical in a single cell to stage 4 cancer, from a single thought to an entire country. His online presence RealTime Cancer evolved into Y.A.C.C. and has connected a network of young people with cancer nation-wide. Their motto is the same as Y.A.C.C.’s, connecting people while increasing cancer advocacy. These conversations have been integral in transforming the support model for young people with cancer in Canada. It’s hard to deny that Geoff isn’t an inspiration and a living, walking, breathing reason to believe that your efforts can foster change. When we look at the results Geoff has achieved for cancer support we are excited see what the future holds for Geoff Eaton and Y.A.C.C.
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