Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 4, 2009

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Everything Changes - The Insiders Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s Author: Kairol Rosenthal
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (2009)
Information: $16.95 US | 239 pages
ISBN: 0470294027
OncoLink Rating: OncoLink Review - 3 Stars

I have been reading books submitted to OncoLink for review for close to 10 years. I cannot remember ever reading one created for the 70,000 young adults diagnosed with cancer every year. It's about time. People in their 20s and 30s face very different, and often more difficult, challenges than the “typical” person with cancer, who is say 30 or 40 years older. This younger group has the highest uninsured or underinsured rates in the U.S. They are often students or just entering the workforce. They may be forced to rely on parents, just when they were trying to be independent. Healthcare providers may dismiss their symptoms, telling them they are too young to have cancer. It is an uphill battle from the start.

Enter Kairol Rosenthal, a 20-something diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She travels the country and uses her experience to compile the stories of young adults with cancer. I don't mean the “story” of how they fought this disease and triumphed. I mean their courageous run-ins with insensitive (though sometimes well-meaning) healthcare workers, family, friends and strangers. They offer detailed descriptions of facing the possibility of death, dealing with fertility, relationships, dating and sex. Many share their feats of conquering the all-too-complicated and insensitive healthcare system, dealing with insurance issues (or lack there of) and getting on with life as a survivor.

But this book isn't just an emotional look into the window of these younger patients' lives. Kairol provides resources, many specific to young adults, on each topic her newfound friends discuss. As an oncology nurse in leukemia and BMT, I cared for many young adults- my peers actually. All the time I spent at their bedside, talking with their support person(s) and getting to know them, I never heard such openness. I think it takes talking to someone who has been there to really open up. Every young adult facing cancer- past or present- should read this book, but that is obvious. Caregivers, family, friends and the healthcare providers who care for and about these 20 and 30 somethings also need to read this diary to get just a glimpse of what their friend has / is enduring. Thank you to Kairol and her friends for sharing their experiences so openly so that we may better understand and care for them.


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