Help Make A Difference to the lives of Adolescence and Young Adults fighting Cancer
Ari’s Cancer Foundation, established in 2012, is run by 12 voluntary committee members and inspired by the life of a vibrant young lady, Ariana, who lost her battle to cancer at the age of 24.
Why ‘live, laugh, love’? Unbeknown to us, this was the motto by which Ari lived. It was only after Ari died and we went through her diary to arrange the memorial service, that we found this phrase all over in her diary. Looking back, she really did embrace this philosophy wholeheartedly, and always reminds us that together, we can make a difference. It’s amazing how these three simple words can hold such significance and promise for the thousands of young adults fighting cancer.
The foundation is affiliated with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, St Luke’s Hospice and Groote Schuur Hospital, and raises funds for Youth Booths (more on this below) and to provide support for families that are fighting cancer or living with cancer. Many of these families have no financial support, medical aid or medical insurance schemes to cover the high expense of cancer treatment.
In September 2014 Ari’s Cancer Foundation pledged to help the Adolescent and Young Adults (AYA) with cancer in South Africa. AYAs are defined as those who are aged between 15 and 39 years old.
The Youth Booth is a comfortable workspace and recreational area for young adults to relax and be entertained in while they are undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the hospital. This eliminates all the negative energy and helps them be a normal teenager once again.
Our first Youth Booth was installed at The Red Cross Children’s Hospital in August 2015, with the second edition being installed at Groote Schuur Hospital in mid-2016. We are currently in the process of raising funds for the third edition that will be homed at Tygerberg Hospital.
Our long term plan is to create separate wards in hospitals, or homes for AYAs to undergo their treatment at.
Ari to all was a “normal” young lady who had a bubbly personality and loved life. She really lived every moment to the max. In 2008, at the age of 22, Ari was sadly diagnosed with a brain tumour.
By 2010 the tumour had turned cancerous. From one day to the next, her life, and our lives, were turned upside down and we were fighting to save her life. She passed away after a courageous battle on 1 May 2011. Her fighting spirit and positive attitude throughout this ordeal made an impact on all that knew her, and even today, many say how much of an inspiration Ariana was to them.
When Ari took ill we were very fortunate and blessed by our family and friends who supported us through this difficult time. Whilst they could not take our pain away, they supported us in very practical ways. We have become aware that there are many people who often have to face this challenge on their own, not only dealing with the emotional trauma but the financial burden of treatment too. We dreamed of starting a small charitable foundation that would be a legacy to Ari. A foundation that would raise funds for patients that desperately need support, to make a difference in their lives. So, in 2012, the Ari’s Cancer Foundation was born.
We are the first and only charity in Africa to focus on Adolescence & Young Adults (AYAs) who are fighting cancer.
This group of young individuals are often misdiagnosed and usually suffer from unique biological, clinical, psychosocial and survivorship issues, and often a different set of cancers too. Once on treatment, these young people often find themselves alienated within the context of cancer services. They are either too young to be treated as paediatrics or too old to be classified as an adult and have to seek treatment in over-whelming government hospitals.
According to Cancer.gov, cancer was the leading cause of disease-related death in the AYA population in 2011. Among AYAs, only accidents, suicide, and homicide claimed more lives than cancer. An estimated 69,212 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) ages 15–39 were diagnosed with cancer in 2011. This is about six times the number of cases diagnosed in children ages 0–14. The incidence of specific cancer types varies dramatically across the AYA age continuum. For example, leukemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer (germ cell tumors), and thyroid cancer are the most common cancer types in younger AYAs (15–39 years old).
Many teens and young adults fall into an interval between cancer treatment programs; those designed for children, and those designed for adults. Therefore it often takes them longer to get a diagnosis and treatment. Teens and young adults are less likely than children, to get the most advanced treatments by taking part in research studies (clinical trials).
Cancer can create a sense of isolation from your friends and family, who may not understand what you are going through. As a young adult, you may feel like you are losing your independence at a time when you were just starting to gain it. Perhaps you just began college, landed a job, or started a family. A cancer diagnosis puts most people on a rollercoaster of emotions.
As cancer is relatively rare in young adults, you may encounter few patients your age. Moreover, treatment may require hospitalization far from home which can lead to emotional isolation. A desire for regularity may keep you from sharing your cancer experience with your healthy peers, adding to a sense of isolation.