“ It is important that you stay informed on what your rights are, what is out there that can help you and that you speak up for what you need and want.
Emily Drake is another Canadian mAss Kicker who does a lot of traveling! She is currently the acting Director of CancerFightClub, a blogger for The Huffington Post, and the Young Adult Coordinator at Hope & Cope. We met her at a conference in Austin, Texas years ago and have continually been impressed with her involvement in the Canadian Young Adult Survivor Movement. She earned her Master’s of Art in Health Promotion from Dalhousie University in 2010 and has been a tireless Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Survivor movement advocate traveling to the United States, Greece, and throughout Canada. She has presented oral presentations/poster presentations at cancer conferences throughout North American and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed publications. We were lucky to catch up with her and ask her some questions.
mK: Thanks for doing this Emily! What is your relationship to tumors/cancer:
ED: I have been involved with the young adults movement for the past six years. I currently blog for the Huffington Post’s Generation Why section. Prior to being involved with CancerFightClub, I was involved with YA psychosocial oncology research. I completed my master’s degree in Health Promotion and focused on the experience of sexuality of young adult cancer survivors. In addition, like many people, I have experienced cancer in my family. Both of my grandmothers are cancer survivors.
mK: What do you do at CancerFightClub?
ED: I am the Director (Acting) of CancerFightClub, which is a national initiative of Hope & Cope at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. I have been involved for a year with this organization. CancerFightClub.com aims to provide adolescent and young adult patients and survivors, caregivers, family and friends, instant access to the resources and support services that help guide you through your cancer experience. CancerFightClub wants all young adults to have access to medical, psychological, rehabilitation, life-management and support resources in their reach. In addition to this, I work as the young adult program coordinator and help organize/facilitate retreats (including one just for young adults living with advanced disease), workshops, community events, hold a dance class, etc.
mK: What motivates you?
ED: The community of young adults that I am fortunate to work with and the young adult cancer movement as a whole is what motivates me.
mK: Yeah, Young Adult Survivors are a very unique demographic. They have so many amazing stories! Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
ED: My parents
mK: Parents can have a great influence! What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
ED: Laugh – I like to find humour in small every day things. Inside jokes are the best!
Cry – I just cried two minutes ago because I watched my future sister-in-law graduate from Pharmacy school via webcast. I am extremely proud of her.
Angry – I get upset over the injustices I see young adult cancer patients face.
mK: Young Adult survivors are always on an unexpected and very interesting journey! What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
ED: Tough questions, Wow. I think one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done was I visited Ireland with my grandparents and father when I was 16. I am a second generation Canadian on my paternal grandfather’s side. My grandfather immigrated to Canada when he was a child. I was able to see where my relatives came from and explore my roots. It was a very important trip for me.
mK: Wow, moving to a new place is a big challenge. Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
ED: I think one of the toughest challenges is isolation. Young adults need to be connected to age-appropriate support and resources, and also with someone who has been through/is going through what they are experiencing.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
mK: HAHAHA! You answered that pretty definitively… Here’s a question for you… What would you do if you found out you had 24 hours to live? Why?
ED: I would spend the day with my husband and family – including our Yorkshire Terrier, Finnegan – at my parents’ cottage in Prince Edward Island, Canada. It faces both a river and the ocean. It really is my happy place.
mK: What are you up to now?
ED: Right now I am talking to you, but overall today is pretty busy as I am trying to check a few things off my to-do lists! Yes, lists. There are multiple. You have to stay organized!
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
ED: Education is power. The way our healthcare systems are set up is that you need to be your own advocate. Find out what is out there, write down your questions and keep asking until people will listen and help. It is important that you stay informed on what your rights are, what is out there that can help you and that you speak up for what you need and want.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
ED: I can tap dance. I used to be a competitive dancer.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
ED: Speak up for what you need and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are resources out there and people who have dedicated their lives to help you. You matter and you deserve to be surrounded by people and services that support you.
Emily Drake: Traveling-Tap Dancing-list maker, shop-a-holic, Prince Edward Islander, and dedicated young adult survivor advocate. We look forward to seeing you at the next conference! Check out CancerFightClub when you get the chance for some great Canadian Young Adult Survivor resources.