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Younger grownup most cancers assist makes all of the distinction: Lauren’s story

CHOC affected person Lauren Aslanian was recognized at age 15 with stage 3 anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. Then a highschool sophomore, she went by six rounds of intensive inpatient chemotherapy and immunotherapy at CHOC Hospital in Orange.

Thankfully, Lauren additionally was a part of a medical trial at CHOC that she credit, “in the end saved her life.” The remedy, a nationwide research in partnership with Kids’s Oncology Group, was particular to her specific lymphoma.

CHOC’s Adolescent and Younger Grownup (AYA) Therapy Program for pediatric most cancers

Lauren was handled on the Hyundai Most cancers Institute at CHOC and a part of the Adolescent and Younger Grownup (AYA) Therapy Program. CHOC’s AYA Therapy Program brings collectively multi-disciplinary specialists to find the simplest remedy methods for younger adults with most cancers. And, CHOC acknowledges the necessity to assist teenagers and younger adults with psychological well being and different vital life points.  

When most cancers interrupts such an vital time in life, the chance for melancholy is excessive and might influence remedy. By way of the Richard C. and Virginia A. Hunsaker AYA Little one Life Program, adolescents and younger adults can obtain assist by weekly social occasions, training, and management mentoring with different sufferers and survivors. This system is solely supported by philanthropy by the CHOC Basis.

One of many program’s annual highlights is the CHOC Oncology Affected person Ball. This one-of-a-kind, memory-making occasion permits adolescent and younger grownup most cancers sufferers to be themselves, neglect their diagnoses and look dazzling in elegant robes and gorgeous tuxedos — with their hair and make-up professionally performed.

Learn the way a pivot to digital occasions through the COVID-19 pandemic elevated entry and engagement for the AYA program.

As an lively member of the AYA little one life program, Lauren credit it for serving to her keep optimism as a result of it’s designed to be with sufferers — and most cancers survivors — each step of the best way by their journey to wellness. It’s the place sufferers create enduring bonds with others. Out of a dire analysis, she discovered associates, hope and a future. She met her boyfriend, Nick, at CHOC once they had been each present process chemotherapy. And, it helped Lauren resolve that she wished to pursue a profession in nursing.

“Realizing that another person actually understood what I used to be going by made all of the distinction.”

Lauren Aslanian, most cancers survivor

On this Q&A, Lauren discusses her most cancers remedy journey and the way AYA positively impacted her therapeutic and future plans.

What did you discover most difficult alongside your most cancers journey?

Probably the most difficult a part of remedy, physiologically, was mucositis, says Lauren. My mouth and throat had been mainly one huge open wound and I couldn’t even swallow my very own saliva. Going into remedy, I knew that I’d lose my hair and really feel sick, however I by no means anticipated the excruciating ache I skilled from mouth sores. I needed to be admitted to CHOC to make use of suction gear instead of swallowing. And due to my prolonged hospital stays, I felt excluded from my friends at dwelling.

Lauren after her first spherical of chemotherapy

General, probably the most difficult a part of my journey was its psychological toll. Emotions of social isolation are extremely frequent within the AYA group, typically resulting in worsening psychological well being issues and in the end, poorer outcomes in remedy. Although I believe I’ve grown and succeeded post-cancer, it has nonetheless taken an emotional toll on me. One stark actuality in an AYA affected person’s journey is having to attend funerals for associates — I’ve misplaced extra good friend than I can depend on each palms. It’s extremely exhausting, however members of my AYA household have gotten me by the deaths. Whereas I’ve skilled nice loss, I’ll by no means remorse making these relationships.

What was particular about your expertise at CHOC?

I made some unbelievable connections with the CHOC workers. As a result of I used to be on an investigational drug, the protocol required I stay inpatient for month-to-month, five-day chemotherapy therapies. However often, my inpatient stays lasted greater than 5 days to ensure I had some type of immune system earlier than I went dwelling, says Lauren.

Lauren and Nick on the 2018 CHOC Oncology Affected person Ball

Thankfully, I had an excellent staff to spend a lot time with. My nurses indulged my inquisitive self and answered all my treatment-related questions. By the tip of my remedy, I felt like I had gone by nursing faculty already! My docs, together with my major oncologist, Dr. Ivan Kirov, made it some extent to talk to me and made positive I felt listened to. Generally physicians discover it simpler to talk to folks as a result of they assume their pediatric sufferers can not present solutions for themselves, however this was by no means the case at CHOC. I used to be so grateful.

How did CHOC’s AYA program influence you in your journey to wellness?

AYA has made the only best influence on my well-being. I’m proud to credit score my successes, at the least partly, to its unbelievable group. It has given me a way of belonging. With out the assist of AYA, I’d not have been capable of get by my lengthy admissions. It helped me to understand the psychosocial influence of a most cancers analysis and the significance of peer assist. AYA members at all times step as much as the plate in instances of want and I stay near them to this present day.  

Lauren along with her siblings at an AYA occasion

When my good friend, Christine, handed away, all our AYA associates wore purple in her honor. After the funeral, we hung out collectively at a well-liked out of doors shopping center. We wore sunflower pins and bumped into somebody making a gift of the actual blooms — that flower will now at all times symbolize her. I felt that she was with us, and it was an ideal day.

What led to your choice to pursue a profession in nursing?

I labored at CHOC as a medical affiliate/nursing assistant for over two years within the hematology/oncology division. I’ve at all times beloved working with children, however working at CHOC actually solidified my adoration for them. I like their resilience and humor, interacting with their households and the whole lot in between.

Lauren and Dr. Ivan Kirov on the day of her final chemotherapy remedy

However I suppose I’ve at all times had an curiosity in drugs. As a younger little one, I’d inform my household that I wished to be a “child physician.” My mother is a bodily therapist and facilitated my curiosity in healthcare. In highschool, I joined the Medical Careers Academy however was recognized shortly after. I truly self-diagnosed my most cancers (with the assistance of Google, haha!) earlier than I arrived at CHOC — which galvanized Dr. Kirov. When he requested what I wished to pursue as a profession, I advised him I knew I wished to do one thing in healthcare.

Throughout my inpatient time, I used to be uncovered to a mess of various healthcare careers and recognized probably the most with the nurses. I noticed myself working of their footwear sooner or later, and determined I’d like to assist sufferers the best way I used to be supported.

At present, Lauren is enrolled within the nation’s No. 2 nursing program at Duke College.

For extra on the Adolescent and Younger Grownup (AYA) Therapy Program for most cancers

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