Six years ago, I was in the children’s hospital receiving chemotherapy for Osteosarcoma. I was 15-years-old. One night, a hospital volunteer knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to go to “teen night.” “Sure,” I said. It turns out, teen night consisted merely of sitting in the pediatric playroom in chairs meant for 5-year-olds, surrounded by barbies and stuffed animals, and watching a PG-13 movie while eating a medium pizza from the hospital cafeteria. There was one other teenager in attendance. This was pretty much the only Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) activity made available to me during my 9 months of inpatient chemotherapy. Most of the time, I listened to babies cry at night and watch toddlers walk the ward in their princess gowns. Cute? Yes… Relatable? No. I was treated at a world-class institution with some of the most brilliant and caring doctors and nurses in the world, but AYA-specific care was the missing puzzle piece for me.
Thankfully, AYA care has improved immensely since I was treated for cancer. Research continues to highlight the unique and unmet needs of this age group. Many hospitals now have dedicated spaces for AYA’s that are much more age-appropriate than the pediatric playroom, and some even have a team of providers dedicated solely to the care of AYA’s. I can’t help but wonder how much having these resources available during my treatment would have impacted my quality of life during cancer. I imagine that having had a space in the hospital where I could have surrounded myself with other people close to my age who “get it” would have been incredibly healing.