survival rates have barely improved for 15-40-year-olds since 1975, largely due
to delayed diagnosis in this age group. 15-40 Connection is a non-profit
organization working to change this by empowering teens and young adults with
the knowledge of what an early cancer symptom can look or feel like, sometimes
by sharing the stories of cancer survivors, like Dave McGrath. Here, he tells
us why 15-40 Connection is important to him:
Why I Speak
for 15-40 Connection
reason why I speak for 15-40 Connection is because I really hate cancer. I use the word “really” to be nice, but
usually my feelings for cancer warrant the use of expletives. Cancer has taken a lot from me and the people
I care about.
I’m still trying to figure myself out, I was the first person I knew who had
cancer. When I was 18 years old in 1992,
cancer was a word that I had only heard of and seen depicted in a couple of
movies. I would get to know cancer on a
really personal level for the next six months, and I received my last round of
treatment for brain cancer during my first weekend of college.
Cancer took a
“normal” end of high school into freshman year in college away from me. A few months after my treatment ended, I
started “fighting back” by getting drunk and breaking things. What I went through wasn’t fair, but I wasn’t
about to talk to someone about my feelings.
I released them, however unhealthy it was, in the way that I needed to.
When I was a
junior in college, cancer took the lives of two of my friends: Danny Manning,
Jr., and Justin Horton. Danny graduated
with me from Saint John’s, and I met Justin (13 when he died) while we were
both getting cancer treatment at UMass. Because of my drinking I wasn’t there for
Justin at the end, and that led to me not having a drink since he passed away
graduated from college, cancer has taken a lot more people.
Greg Montalbano, Uncle Bobby, my friend Aimee’s mom, my friend Bethany’s mom,
my friend Suzie’s dad, my friend Casey, my friend David’s dad, my friend
Blake’s mom, my friend Anne’s mom, and more than twenty- five former Hope Lodge
I speak for
15-40 Connection because I think it’s my duty as a survivor to honor all of
those people by fighting back, and 15-40 Connection is a group I believe
in. I personally won’t be satisfied
until the cancer survival rates are 100% for all age groups, but I think the
15-40-year-old age group is a great place to start. Cancer survival rates
haven’t improved in this age group since 1975, while they have improved in
other age groups. That’s why I believe in focusing resources on teaching this
age group about early detection.
hatred of cancer, a big key in beating cancer is simple: early detection. Most cancers are much more likely to be curable
if you find them in the first or second stage.
Although there is no single set of cancer-like symptoms, a symptom could
be anything that doesn’t feel normal for you.
I speak for
15-40 Connection because my life has been an example of both what not to do and
what to do when facing symptoms that don’t feel normal.
I learned my
lesson about the importance of being proactive about my health the hard way. With
my Crohn’s Disease, I let the symptoms go on for years and didn’t seek out a
doctor until the pain was so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. The disease had put holes in my intestines,
and 1 ½ feet of my large and small intestines were removed when I was diagnosed
with Crohn’s as a freshman in high school.
started having really bad headaches and double vision at age 18, I went to a
doctor right away. It saved my life. If just one person I speak to can learn from
my example, it is worth it.
I speak for
15-40 Connection because it is an organization made up of wonderful people who
are dedicated to getting the message of early detection out there. Both the staff and the awesome group of
volunteer cancer survivor speakers that I work with make speaking for 15-40 Connection
something I look forward to every time I do it.
My goal is to share my story and 15-40 Connection’s message with at
least 1,000,000 people. It is time to
change the way we talk about cancer.