“ Use the resources available and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get online because there’s a whole cancer family out there waiting to accept you.
Cara Paymaster is a very active mAss Kicker! She is very active with the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, MO, USA. She is very active with the young adult cancer movement. She is very active with the American Cancer Society and Stupid Cancer – St. Louis Chapter. She also created HOPE for Young Adults with Cancer. We were very fortunate to find time in her busy schedule to ask her a few questions.
mK: Hi Cara! Thanks for hanging out with us! First question… Why did you start HOPE for Young Adults with Cancer?
CP: I have been touched by cancer for as long as I can remember. My first experience was in high school when I lost one of my best friends to spinal cancer in 7th grade. I didn’t understand why her younger brother and older sister were completely healthy; yet she was gone. My parents didn’t know how to help me understand her passing, and losing her was a very sad and confusing experience. Two years later, I lost my grandma to lung cancer at age 56. With my great grandmother also having battled breast cancer, I feel that over the years I have always known someone that has been battling cancer. When I had the opportunity to start something and do it the way I wanted to, I decided to go all in 100%. I especially wanted to help people my age and the more I got involved in the “cancer world”, the more I realized how little help people under the age of 40 with cancer had. It just all fell in to place.
mK: Who are your heroes?
CP: Anyone who has been touched by cancer. When you are called an inspiration or a hero, just accept it and own it! I meet so many people who say they aren’t an inspiration or hero and I say knock it off! I know it feels weird but when you have been put through one of the hardest things that your mind and body can go through, in my eyes you are definitely considered a hero. You have been burned by radiation, poisoned by chemo, poked, scanned and scared to death so I say you’re a God damn HERO and an inspiration to everyone!
mK: Right! It’s a pretty big deal. What motivates you?
CP: I’d have to say other motivated people. I like being around people that get things done and that motivates me to do better and keep up. Also, the young people we help. The unbelievably kind emails, comments, notes and gifts that we get from them are what makes me want to keep doing more and to do it better.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
CP: I love a good laugh. I want to laugh ALL of the time so I try to be as silly as I can. I read heartbreaking stories from people with cancer every day so I need to lighten up and goof off a bit. I’d have to say my friends make me laugh the most.
I can cry at the drop of a hat. I have become a much more sensitive person since starting Hope4YAWC. In September I was speaking on stage at an event and saw an “In Memory Of” photo of a young woman we lost that we were all close to. I ugly cried in front of 300 people and someone had to take over for me while I pulled it together. I didn’t expect that to happen so it was pretty embarrassing.
People who lie and stories of a cancer misdiagnosis make me the angriest.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
CP: Weird and interesting things happen to me on a daily basis! I couldn’t even make up some of the things that have happened to me. I would have to say throwing out the first pitch at the Cardinals game this year was pretty interesting but most of all starting Hope For Young Adults With Cancer without being a survivor myself is the most interesting thing I’ve done. People find it hard to believe that I could do all of this work just because I care about people affected by cancer and want to honor friends and the loved ones I’ve lost.
mK: hee hee… If they made your life story into a movie who would you choose to play you and your family/friends? Why?
CP: Jennifer Lawrence. I’m giving my husband credit for helping me with that one. That girl can do no wrong and she’s silly like I am. My husband would be played by Ryan Reynolds just so I can dream.
mK: What do you like to do in your spare time?
CP: We have Cardinals season tickets in the bleachers so in the summer we are bleacher bums. Any extra time out with friends and family is great since I am always working.
mK: What are you up to now?
CP: I am organizing an ambassador program for Hope4YAWC. We have had so many people offer to help and this will create a way for people to be close to the organization while helping us reach even more people while doing a little fundraising.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
CP: Use the resources available and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get online because there’s a whole cancer family out there waiting to accept you.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
CP: I’m a very girly girl but most of my best and closest friends are guys. My guy friends make me laugh for hours and they are easy to be around. Oh and my bedroom is a complete disaster area. My husband doesn’t even keep his things in that room.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
CP: Keep Kicking mASS!!
Cara Paymaster: Silly first pitch thrower, die-hard reality TV fan, Jennifer Laurence twin, and dedicated young adult cancer survivor advocate. Thanks again for hanging out with us! We’ll definitely keep an eye on HOPE For Young Adults with Cancer. Check them out!