cancer survivors Archives | Youth Cancer Europe (YCE)

During last weekend’s fourth edition of Untold, Romania’s largest electronic music festival, some of the world’s biggest DJs including Armin van Buuren, Afrojack, Kygo and Danny Avila greeted youth cancer survivors from five different countries in meetings organised by Youth Cancer Europe, who specially flew the young adults in for the occasion.

A group of survivors from around the continent, aged 18-26, were given the opportunity through a social media competition organized by the charity for its network of cancer survivors, which included representation from Spain, Northern Ireland, Poland, Macedonia, and Romania. Afrojack was the first to meet the group backstage during Thursday night, while Armin Van Buuren took photos with the survivors before taking to the stage at Cluj Arena for a mammoth 7-hour headline set that wrapped up the festival. Spanish DJ Danny Avila also wore the “F*** Cancer” bracelet given to him by the group during his Saturday night set, taking to Instagram to share a photo and recall the meeting as “unbelievable”.

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youth cancer survivors armin van buuren

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Previous meet-and-greets organised by Youth Cancer Europe for its network of survivors include Martin Garrix, Hardwell and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike.

Katie Rizvi, CEO, and Founder of the Youth Cancer Europe Foundation said: “Once again, we were lucky to secure the opportunity to invite youth cancer survivors from across the continent to meet some of their heroes at the incredible Untold Festival in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Afrojack, Kygo, Danny Avila and Armin van Buuren took the time to speak to each of our guests individually, take photos and sign autographs for them. These are memories that they will cherish forever and we’re always over the moon to bring these experiences to them. A huge thank you goes out from us to the DJs, as well as to the team at Untold for all their help in making this happen. Until the next time!”

Youth Cancer Europe would like to thank the UNTOLD festival for providing access to the festival and to Ecolor manufacturing and the Swedish Consulate in Cluj Napoca for sponsoring the travel and accommodation of visiting youth cancer survivors.

Finding Out About Late Complications

Erik is a young cancer survivor from Sweden. Like many other survivors, he has faced the difficulty of late effects as a result of his cancer treatment. While this is a very common issue for a large number of survivors, it is still a taboo subject that patients are often not informed about correctly. As a result, many survivors are then caught off guard with these, often years after their cancer treatment has been completed.

For Erik in particular, this has also meant having to deal with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which are only exacerbated by the confusion and lack of information surrounding late effects.

Today, Erik is a strong advocate for Youth Cancer Europe’s cause, actively participating in meetings and workshop both across the continent and in his native Sweden. In this piece, you can read more about Erik’s fight with late effects and dealing with mental health as a cancer survivor. You can read more about his story in his personal blog here (in English and Swedish): https://www.livetefterbarncancer.se/en/erik-sturesson-cancer/

Getting over my cancer treatment with group therapy

Last year in Stockholm, I attended the second session of group therapy organized by the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation and its project, Maxa Livet. We’re part of a pilot project and we’re a reference group. Some members are here just because we need enough people to actually have group therapy, which I’m grateful for, seeing how others, like me, are here because we need it.

I have tried regular therapy before, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the idea of group therapy either; I was a very closed person, I didn’t want to share these things with a group of strangers like that. I didn’t even post images on Facebook before 2017 – essentially the only posts I’ve made have been when someone had a birthday. Regular therapy didn’t work either; I always felt like they didn’t understand the issues I was dealing with. I mostly got the “be happy you’re alive” response.

Consequently, I never managed to get over my chemotherapy treatment mentally, and every time I’ve been fatigued since my treatment, it’s been following the same pattern. I’m active, almost like normal, then I get more and more tired, I become inactive, I get anxiety attacks because I feel trapped in my own body, and then I become depressed. My latest depression was unlike any of the others though, due to its cause. In my opinion, due in large part to being a physician’s pharmaceutical error.

Yet, in many ways, this depression could be one of the best things that has happened to me. It was the price I paid to see how bad the support survivors receive in Sweden is. It made me realize that although I’ve been surrounded by a lot doctors with a very wide variety of disciplines, they never told me the truth, mostly because they didn’t know the truth themselves. Either way, I never got the information or help I needed, and which I didn’t realise actually existed.

The revelation of learning about “late side effects”

I’ve always known that I got all these side complications from the chemotherapy or from cancer itself; it was the only logical reason. But as I’ve said before, there’s nothing in the media, anywhere, about this, let alone any information on how common it is. Not a single physician ever mentioned late side effects, not even my adult oncologist. Fine, I knew the cause of my issues. It’s pretty simple: all I’d do is look at my life prior to and after cancer. Before cancer I was athletic, used zero drugs, including alcohol. Would I take 14 different substances every day today without the cancer? No. However, simply knowing the term “late complications” put things into perspective. It made me realize I’m not alone or in the minority. Why then, has the system been so terribly bad when it comes to our treatment? Because it’s taboo, that’s why.

I was always a special case; eventually I got used to this sort of reasoning from my doctors. My endocrinologist had me do tests so rare that they only did them roughly twice a year, meaning the nurse had to read the instructions before performing the test. I got used to it. Then, I got this depression and at the same time, the Swedish medical system started to change, ever so slightly, for survivors. Not for those like me though, who already had vast health issues, a fact that was made abundantly clear in a radio interview I was involved in. One of the participants in this interview was my old child oncologist. He stated outright that these steps being taken now are not for people like me, who are already ill from the chemotherapy treatment. It’s for the next generation of survivors. I know this is something that frustrates him. Sweden have had the knowledge and means to care for us survivors, but chose not to.

I wasn’t just waiting around, doing nothing

I sometimes blame myself for ending up where I am now. I feel that I should have read more about these issues myself. I couldn’t, though. It simply made me depressed to look these things up. Adding to this, every time I saw something, it was always a positive read; they had no issues at all – seemingly. I didn’t bury my head in the sand for ten years, but I trusted that my oncologist would actually help me if she could, or send me to someone else who could. I mean, it’s Swedish healthcare. It’s supposed to be great. She didn’t however, because it wasn’t in her job description up until that point, in 2016/17. That is what she said when I confronted her, regarding why it had taken so long.

Nevertheless, at least I know the facts now. Without this depression, I would have never started to blog, never gotten in contact with the Maxa Livet-project, never gone to Lithuania for Youth Cancer Europe. I would be studying or working, until I got my next fatigue-episode and crashed. Now, I’m trying to adapt, to learn more about fatigue, what I can and can’t do.

Yet, it seems cruel that all survivors in a similar situation such as mine should find out in the manner that I did. I had a very severe depression; I never did hurt myself, but I was suicidal-in-thought for a while. All this happened to me because of ignorance, incompetence and a lack of transparency, lack of awareness.

If only there were some sort of network, with cables around entire nations, or even around the globe, through which journalists could broadcast audio… and if one dare to dream, audio, video and text via special devices that could display and reproduce these sounds. And then, you could have some sort of news on these devices, daily. Where important events and facts could be presented to the audience. As a means of public service. If only that existed…

As for my depression; a forest fire is devastating to the life living there, but afterwards, life is reshaped and flourishes. This is what happened to me. I burnt down to the ground and I’m trying to reshape, re-focus on what’s important. Rising from the ashes, as it were.

Over the past year, we have set up a number of celebrity meet and greets in which our survivors had a chance to share a few moments with some of their idols!

Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Martin Garrix and Hardwell are some of the superstar DJs that have shown their support for Youth Cancer Europe in recent months, allowing backstage access to our survivors to meet with them. Not only that, but we got a chance to take some pictures and autographs home with us!

The latest meet and greets in Belfast and Transylvania were picked up by media from all over the globe, including the UK, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and as far afield as the USA, Brazil and Argentina!

Be sure to keep an eye out on our social media channels for future opportunities to attend a meet and greet event in your country. Follow us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/YouthCancerEurope

“We’ve seen through the enthusiastic faces in the room, through the outcomes that we managed to achieve in 8 hours with no structure but with everyone bringing up similar topics, sharing the similar visions that there are so many things that we can do jointly.”

Sarunas Narbutas – Lithuania

  • Advisor to the President of the Republic of Lithuania
  • Lecturer on EU and International Law at Vilnius University
  • PhD Candidate (Networked Governance)
  • President of the Lithuanian Cancer Patient Society
  • Cancer survivor

“I believe meetings like this are important because it helps us get together with survivors from other countries and we can find out what issues other people face and what would be the solution on a European level.”

Floin Barnea – Romania

  • Business owner and lead designer of Digital Etiquette
  • Student at the Faculty of Philosophy and Political Sciences, Iasi
  • Cancer survivor

“I think it’s very helpful to bring people together from across Europe to try and discuss the issues they are facing with cancer despite the differences we face in funding and medical care. And I think this really has helped and we have something we can hopefully build on.”

Mathew J. Cooke – United Kingdom

  • Phd Candidate (Politics), University of Cambridge
  • Member, NHS England’s Teenage and Young People Cancer Clinical Reference Group
  • Member, NCRI Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Studies Group
  • Cancer survivor

“Being in different groups through the meeting, I managed to talk with almost all the participants from the conference and this way we were able to see the problems that are around the whole of Europe Recommended Site. ”

Ana Amariutei – Romania

  • 12th grade student at Emil Racovita National College, Iasi
  • Patient support Volunteer with Little People Romania at the Sf. Maria Children’s
  • Emergency Hospital, Iasi
  • Cancer survivor

“I liked the fact that it was an open space summit and we had freedom to speak, freedom to what meeting we wanted. We could also raise our own issues and it was a very good way to get people together.”

Floin Barnea – Romania

  • Business owner and lead designer of Digital Etiquette
  • Student at the Faculty of Philosophy and Political Sciences, Iasi
  • Cancer survivor

“Probably the most intriguing thing about this meeting was that it was an open summit, I never joined or participated in that king of meetings ever, so that was pretty impressive.”

Tomaz Dezelak – Slovenia

  • History and Theology Student at the University of Ljubljana
  • Author, The Other Me
  • Cancer survivor

“All the ideas were flowing, everybody was talking, everybody was discussing their own problems and their own issues and everybody was giving an opinion so it was a very productive day.”

Emanuel Schipor – Romania

  • Student at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Cluj-Napoca
  • Patient Support Volunteer
  • Assistant to Little People hospital psychologist, Institute of Oncology in Cluj-Napoca
  • Cancer survivor

“I was very impressed by the level of knowledge and the ability to communicate it in a second language to most people. I couldn’t have done that in a foreign language, so I was very much blown away by that. But also the enthusiasm and the engagement everyone had throughout the day, despite the fact we all had very little sleep and too little coffee.”

Mathew J. Cooke – United Kingdom

  • Phd Candidate (Politics), University of Cambridge
  • Member, NHS England’s Teenage and Young People Cancer Clinical Reference Group
  • Member, NCRI Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Studies Group
  • Cancer survivor

“My first reaction was not knowing what exactly was going to happen, I was a little bit afraid of the themes that were going to come up, what everybody is going to talk about, if they were really going to answer to my questions, what I was asking myself about, and I was pretty impressed to see that many people had the same questions as I had. Same themes came up that I was interested in and I was pretty impressed, I really liked it and I think it was really worthwhile coming.”

Francisco Mateos – Spain

  • Cofounder and board member of AAA – Asocoacion Espanola de Adolescentes y
  • Adultos jovenes con cancer
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Bachelor in Philosophy and student of Pedagogy
  • Cancer survivor

“I’m excited! For me it was a great experience, I’m grateful for being here, for being invited first of all and for being here amongst all of you, very proud for that.”

George Seremetakis – Greece

  • Double major graduate in Computer Science and Football Coaching
  • Vice-President of Kyttaro, Greek Organization of Adult Cancer Survivors
  • Cancer survivor

“I’m excited! For me it was a great experience, I’m grateful for being here, for being invited first of all and for being here amongst all of you, very proud for that.”

Mathew J. Cooke – United Kingdom

  • Phd Candidate (Politics), University of Cambridge
  • Member, NHS England’s Teenage and Young People Cancer Clinical Reference Group
  • Member, NCRI Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Studies Group
  • Cancer survivor