My name is Teresa and our lives have changed dramatically since my son Kristian’s diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, a pediatric cancer. Kristian was like any other teenager, full of life, hopes and dreams. He had a hard-earned football scholarship, he had a girlfriend, and he wanted to be a veterinarian. Kristian was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma the day after his high school graduation. He had just turned eighteen a month before his diagnosis, and because of this, he was put into the adult cancer world. The oncologists found it difficult to treat Kristian because although he was diagnosed with a childhood cancer, he was eighteen and built like a football player, so he was very much in an adult body.
I think one of the things Kristian would have appreciated was to not be treated like an adult. He needed the support of his family and friends around him and when he was getting chemotherapy, there were times that he would say “Mom, everyone here is old.” There was no one close to his age. He didn’t feel comfortable in this adult setting. It was later in his cancer journey, after my persistence to have Kristian started on a clinical trial, that he transferred to a children’s hospital for treatment because his diagnosis was a childhood cancer. But being surrounded by small children did not make him feel comfortable either.
Kristian received treatment at BC Cancer, an adult oriented cancer centre. His treatments would span two to four days at a time. Kristian would be receiving treatment during the day, but also be awake all night completing school work, studying for exams, etc. As a way to cope with this, his brother attended his classes to take notes for him to use at night when completing his school work.
One of the things that we recognized, especially after Kristian’s passing, is that there is an age group of people who are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, who need very unique support because of their age. We realized there was a gap between the pediatric and adult world, particularly between the ages of 15 and 29, where their life is very different from other age groups. Their personal needs are different, their socioeconomic status is different, and their psychological needs are different.