- I am writing it from my desk at Maastricht University, in The Netherlands, where I am studying abroad for the next 4 months! But, more importantly...
- I am honored to unveil the project of an awesome young author, who is doing something incredible for the adolescents and young adults with cancer in Italy, and across Europe.
So, this is officially "Riding the Cancer Coaster" - European style!
Since ending my cancer treatment, and living life as a survivor, I have sought to support adolescents and young adults with cancer in as many ways as possible. Yet, I never realized I was only focusing on those in the United States.
I never thought to look beyond that, to the needs of those young cancer patients and survivors in other parts of the world. That is, until, a few months ago, I received an email from a young woman in Italy who had found my blog. That young woman was Rebecca Domino, and I soon found out that her work as a writer had led her to learn about the specific challenges faced by adolescents and young adults with cancer. But, the truly amazing thing was that she was attempting to DO something for that population of patients and survivors that I had not really noticed.
With that, I am so excited to introduce Rebecca and share her amazing new project here.
Hi! My name is Rebecca Domino and I am a 29 year old emerging writer and journalist from Italy. I’m here today to tell you a bit about my new project/website “Adolescenti e cancro” (“Teens and Cancer”). It is based in Italy but will hopefully become an international online meeting point for teens and young people around the world who have or have had cancer. It doesn’t matter if they’ve just been diagnosed, if they are in remission, or if they have a terminal diagnosis.
Regardless of where they are from or where they are treated, we want to get all of these young people involved. I think my website can be particularly helpful to those who are (or were) treated in adult or pediatric wards and may not know someone close to their own age who actually knows what it is like to go through cancer treatment.
When I talk to people about my website/project, they often ask me “Why did you set it up?” and I understand their curiosity since I’ve never had cancer myself and I don’t personally know any young person who had to go through that kind of experience. I do, however, know older people who have had cancer: some who won their battles and some who didn’t.
The inspiration for this new project of mine all started with one of my novels… Writing has always been my biggest passion and in January 2014, I self-published my first book called La mia amica ebrea (My Jewish Friend). The novel talks about a less popular side of the Holocaust. Then, on in May 2014, I self-published my second novel, Fino all’ultimo respiro (Until the Last Breath).
That is the novel that changed my life. The idea for the novel appeared in my mind out of the blue and I found myself writing about teenage cancer, a topic I’ve never really thought about before. The novel is written from the point of view of Allyson, an average 17 year old Scottish girl whose life changes when she befriends Coleen Hameldon, a girl her own age who’s living with leukemia.
Before I start off writing my books I always do research about the topic I’m going to write about. So, I did that for “Fino all’ultimo respiro.” I looked for medical information about leukemia (symptoms, treatments, etc...) and then I read, watched, and listen to stories of teens and young people who have or have had cancer. I was blown away by them! I was prepared to read and hear sad stories about death, pain and any kind of negative feeling such as anger, disappointment, and “why me?” questions. But, strength, courage, smiles, altruism and love for life outweighed all the negative emotions. I’ve always been an introspective girl, I know life is a miracle, I’ve never taken it for granted. I always did my best to realize my dreams and make the most out of every day I’m given on this Earth. But, reading and listening to these stories led me to ask myself how can these young people can think and act that way when life has thrown such a hard thing on them? Those stories were the motivation for my novel and are the reason why I decided to give it away for free to any interested reader, encouraging my readers to donate what they can to Teenage Cancer Trust (UK) instead.
While that’s how things began, I felt I had to do something else, a project I could carry on for years and hopefully for the rest of my life. I know some countries, like the UK, have a great healthcare system with many wards especially made for teenagers. But, not all the countries are like that. For example, here in Italy, we have a few wards for teens and young people with cancer. Yet, I think they are so important and the work they are doing is fundamental. I think we all should work together to encourage many other hospitals to fund, open, and maintain this type of specialized teenage cancer ward (and to link them with each other through the support of a charity that specifically cares for teens and young adults with cancer). I think each Italian region should have at least one of these wards and ALL teens and young people with cancer should have the right to be treated in such places, where the staff cares about them as teens, not as adults or children.
I think to do that we all need to talk about teenage cancer more and more, until all the people realize the importance of such wards and the necessity of providing teens and young people around the world with the proper care and services from the day they hear the words “you have cancer” to life after treatment. I also think we should all act about the urgent situation of teens and young people who live in less fortunate countries, who have little or no access to medical care, and may not know much about cancer….but that’s another thing.
So, that is all part of why I created this website/project. I want to do my bit in helping these teens and young people have a better quality of life. As I said, my project is especially aimed at those who are not or were not treated in wards especially for teenagers. To provide them with a good social support system, they can use the website to connect with other young people in similar situations (and talk to them through email). Also, they can read stories from other patients and survivors, watch their videos, take part in our initiatives, and send their own material to be shared on the website so they can help others!
I want my website to be free of any kind of barrier, I want it to be international, I want young people with cancer to find friends close to their age who can actually help them, who can actually understand them.
The website has many other goals as well. These goals include informing Italians (especially young people) about the 5 main symptoms of teenage cancer, the importance of prevention, and knowing your body and checking it regularly. We want to encourage people to become blood/bone marrow (stem cells) donors, we want to organize initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of support for teenagers with cancer and we want to provide Italian teens and young people with cancer with free gift boxes upon request... I like to say that “Adolescenti e cancro” is made both for and with teens and young people with cancer, and I sincerely thank all the young people that – even before the website was launched – helped me by sharing their stories with me, making videos for the website, and generally supporting my project.
I feel honored to have the chance to do something for these young people. They have taught me so much more about life and I’m sure I’ll bring all these lessons with me, and when my day will come (I hope it’ll be when I’ll be very old because I still have a lot of things to do!) I’m sure I’ll have those lessons in my heart and I will have true gratitude for the life I’ve been given and the things I’ve accomplished. How do you say “thank you” to someone so young who taught you such things? I think “Adolescenti e cancro” is my answer.
To access this new site (in English or Italian), or share it with someone you know, please visit: www.adolescentiecancro.weebly.com
If you are a girl aged 13-24, and you have or have had cancer, you are invited to take part in the first online initiative of Teens and Cancer: a photographic exhibition titled "I'm Beautiful." You can find more information about it at:
You can also visit the site on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/adolescentiecancro