Irreverence, humor, sarcasm…not words you’d necessarily associate with the fight of your life. Yet more and more young adults are facing the big c with a live-out-loud attitude. They don’t just cope with cancer, they dare to call it names. The Vice President for Programs at StupidCancer.org recently sat down to chat with FlourSackMama.com. Allison Ward knows a few things about cancer, with the self-defined status of “thrivor” on her business card.
“I was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2007,” Ward shared. She underwent conventional approaches from surgery to radiation and chemotherapy. Then the doctors said her treatment was not working and she could expect to live three to six months.
“So, I actually prepared to die, I stopped treatment and I did holistic treatment, and I moved home with my parents, and pretty much put my affairs in order and stopped working. During that time, I pretty much lost the will to live.” Ward explained that dying became her focus. “For a while I did give up and I was pretty pissed off that I didn’t die because I was kind of sitting around waiting for it to happen and I gave up all quality of life.”
To her own surprise, by 2011 Ward was getting better, and she attended an adventure therapy camp hosted by First Descents that changed her perspective on life. “I learned that it was time to start living again no matter how long that I had to live. At Stupid Cancer we have a phrase called ‘get busy living’. And now I’m all about getting busy living.” Ward says now she focuses on what she wants to accomplish in the short-term, how she can help others through the non-profit where she work, and especially on having fun!
StupidCancer.org is filling a need because cancer has become so common in young adults, and because treatments are getting better although cure rates are not. “Specifically with ovarian cancer, more people are living with it, we’re able to treat it, but we’re not able to cure it, so they’re living longer,” said Ward. She has been surviving with an integrative approach to her personal health. “I did the conventional treatment as well as acupuncture and some herbal treatments and I truly believe that acupuncture and the herbal treatments supported my body enough to get through the health crisis at the time and has enabled me to do treatment.” She is prepared to go back into treatment when her cancer worsens, all the while focuses on life now, no matter its duration.
StupidCancer.org offers a wealth of online resources for young adults or even parents of children going through cancer. The organization encourages patients to connect with a mentor, especially someone who has gone through a similar cancer experience. Stupid Cancer also encourages using all local and online community resources available for support.
Because cancer patients and survivors are one of the populations most at risk from toxins in the environment and the home, Ward took part in the national Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families in Washington, DC, calling for updated policies on toxic chemicals. “Because our immune systems are affected and our treatments are affecting our bodies, the more chemicals that we’re putting into our bodies post treatment the higher risk we are for other diseases and secondary cancers.” Science shows cause for concern with numerous substances used in everyday consumer products, and there’s even been concern about substances used in hospital settings.
Ward and the Stupid Cancer team are doing what they can to make thriving fun, although they know what they’re up against. “I think it truly sucks that one out of three women and two out of three men are going to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.“ StupidCancer.org remains irreverent, edgy and ready to help.