MURRAY, Utah (INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE) – Help is available for adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer. This group often gets left behind or has different challenges than younger children or older adults. Thanks to Intermountain Healthcare and their partnership with other healthcare systems, cancer patients are getting the help they need.
In the middle of the pandemic nearly a year ago, Nayeli Gomez from Layton received the devastating news.
“I found a lump on my chest. That’s when they told me I had breast cancer,” Nayeli said.
As a young Intermountain Healthcare patient, a nurse navigator contacted Nayeli.
“She was so helpful. There would be no way I had brain capacity enough to do everything she was doing for me, setting up appointments, putting me in contact with the right doctors,” Nayeli said.
Dr. David Gill a cancer specialist at Intermountain Healthcare says adolescents and young adults often called AYAs are patients between the ages of 15-39 years old diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Gill says this group is underserved with unique challenges.
“It’s your formative years, in addition to dealing with education, really important years in employment, you may need to take breaks for treatments and significant finance toxicity and sexual health and other issues,” said Dr. Gill.
Several months into her chemo treatment, Nayeli was let go from her job.
“The chemo treatment and all that was taking too much time away from work time. I wasn’t putting full-time work hours anymore,” Nayeli said.
Nayeli’s team at Huntsman-Intermountain AYA Cancer Care program helped her navigate unemployment, job interviews and even helped find her current job.
“It was very exhausting and hard emotionally,” said Nayeli.
“Right now she’s on chemotherapy and we can do toxicity tests at work through her transitioning jobs during diagnosis, so it’s important to me to tailor her care for her life and professional development as well,” said Dr. Gill.
Nayeli started a Go-Fundme to help pay for medical costs. She also found support on Facebook and other important connections through the AYA program.
“It was nice to have someone to talk to who understood what I was going through and offer support and someone to vent to. It has been everything,” said Nayeli.
Dr. Gill says they’re not only treating cancer but the whole patient.
“We not only think about medical treatments, side effects, symptoms, but depression, anxiety relationships, and professional development are all incredibly important,” said Dr. Gill.
Nayeli is undergoing her 3rd round of chemo treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
She has had such success with her AYA team that she has become an advocate for other patients who are going through similar devastating news.
“It’s been nice to see something positive come out of something horrible,” said Nayeli.
“It’s been an honor to care for her and I’m really proud of how well she’s done,” said Dr. Gill.
“You have to advocate for yourself. If anyone watching this takes that away and advocates for themselves then something good came out of this,” Nayeli said.
For additional information about Intermountain Healthcare, please visit their website. If you or a family member is experiencing a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1.
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