CHOC affected person Lauren Aslanian was recognized at age 15 with stage 3 anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. Then a highschool sophomore, she went via six rounds of intensive inpatient chemotherapy and immunotherapy at CHOC Hospital in Orange.
Thankfully, Lauren additionally was a part of a scientific trial at CHOC that she credit, “finally saved her life.” The therapy, a nationwide examine in partnership with Youngsters’s Oncology Group, was particular to her explicit 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 consultants to find the simplest therapy 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 danger for despair is excessive and might influence therapy. Via the Richard C. and Virginia A. Hunsaker AYA Little one Life Program, adolescents and younger adults can obtain assist via weekly social occasions, schooling, and management mentoring with different sufferers and survivors. This system is solely supported by philanthropy via 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 finished.
As an energetic 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 way in which via their journey to wellness. It’s the place sufferers create enduring bonds with others. Out of a dire analysis, she discovered mates, hope and a future. She met her boyfriend, Nick, at CHOC after they have been each present process chemotherapy. And, it helped Lauren determine that she needed to pursue a profession in nursing.
“Realizing that another person actually understood what I used to be going via made all of the distinction.”
Lauren Aslanian, most cancers survivor
On this Q&A, Lauren discusses her most cancers therapy 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 therapy, physiologically, was mucositis, says Lauren. My mouth and throat have been principally one massive open wound and I couldn’t even swallow my very own saliva. Going into therapy, 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 tools rather than swallowing. And due to my prolonged hospital stays, I felt excluded from my friends at dwelling.
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, usually resulting in worsening psychological well being issues and finally, poorer outcomes in therapy. Although I feel 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 mates — I’ve misplaced extra good friend than I can depend on each fingers. It’s extremely exhausting, however members of my AYA household have gotten me via 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 employees. 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 normally, my inpatient stays lasted greater than 5 days to ensure I had some type of immune system earlier than I went dwelling, says Lauren.
Thankfully, I had an awesome group to spend a lot time with. My nurses indulged my inquisitive self and answered all my treatment-related questions. By the top of my therapy, I felt like I had gone via nursing faculty already! My medical doctors, together with my major oncologist, Dr. Ivan Kirov, made it a degree to talk to me and made certain I felt listened to. Generally physicians discover it simpler to talk to oldsters as a result of they assume their pediatric sufferers can’t 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 one biggest influence on my well-being. I’m proud to credit score my successes, at the least partially, 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 via 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 occasions of want and I stay near them to at the present time.
When my good friend, Christine, handed away, all our AYA mates 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 giving freely the actual blooms — that flower will now at all times signify 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 scientific 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 really like their resilience and humor, interacting with their households and every thing in between.
However I assume I’ve at all times had an curiosity in medication. As a younger little one, I’d inform my household that I needed 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 inspired Dr. Kirov. When he requested what I needed to pursue as a profession, I informed him I knew I needed to do one thing in healthcare.
Throughout my inpatient time, I used to be uncovered to a large number 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 way in which I used to be supported.
Right this moment, 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