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At the fifth annual OMG Cancer Summit, Will Reiser was awarded the “Extreme Cancer Survivor” award. Reiser is the screenwriter for the movie 50/50. 50/50 is loosely based on Reiser’s cancer experience as a young adult. During a question and answer session, Reiser discussed the impact a cancer diagnosis had on him. He said after he finished treatment he thought to himself, “I haven’t changed”. It took some time and his friends pointing changes out to him, before he realized he had changed. He said “How could someone my age face death and not change?”
For many brain tumor survivors, finding the meaning may be more difficult. While they have faced a tumor that could impact every aspect of their being, the desire to not be seen as different often outweighs the desire to find the meaning in being a “survivor”. While many others talk to them about being an “inspiration” or being “strong”, they feel they just did what they had to in order to finish treatment. Oftentimes they do not see the educational obstacles they overcame in order to earn a degree, but rather see how long it took them compared to others their age. They do not see the leadership and support they provide to others when they are willing to listen to each other or a newly diagnosed teen or other young adult.
Yes, facing your own mortality has to change teens and young adults. As professionals, parents, or peers we see the difference. I hope that each survivor can figure out how surviving a brain tumor “fits” into their life and can find a way to celebrate the many challenges they have overcome. Let us know the how you are different.