Healing and dealing with being a teen

Helping young adults face an uncertain world after cancer

It was the Sunday afternoon before orientation on my first day of work at Norton Healthcare when my grandmother told me the story of “the man in the red coat”: The Rev. John Norton.

She described how more than 100 years ago The Rev. Norton was known in our community as the Good Samaritan because he selflessly cared for anyone in need.

She shared the history of Norton Healthcare, her experiences as a nurse and her passion for caring for others. With tears in her eyes, she passed down to me her nursing pin from Norton Infirmary from 1954.

That kind of caring and compassion continues at Norton Cancer Institute. As I walked out of my orientation, I felt appreciated, passionate and enthusiastic. Now, as a patient navigator, I have the opportunity to change the lives of cancer patients, their families and members of our community.

During my 16 years in health care, I have seen many people affected by cancer — some are patients; some are family members of patients; some have defeated cancer but now are scared to hear “that word” again in the doctor’s office.

Recent research found that cancer affects eight times as many 15- to 39-year-olds as those younger than age 15. Young people in this age group face many barriers to cancer care — transitioning from pediatric to adult-based physicians, few clinical trials focused on their age group, adjusting to living independently and learning to manage social and intimate relationships.

I work to break down those barriers. Here at Norton Cancer Institute, we started a program just for adolescents and young adults to connect them with others going through the same challenges. We call our program MyYAP — My Young Adult Program.

Our team provides opportunities for these young people facing extraordinary circumstances to learn from one another and grow together through services such as art therapy, music therapy and yoga geared specifically to them. Research shows that helping adolescents and young adults address their challenges helps to increase survival rates.

Every year, 70,000 young people are diagnosed with cancer. Many of them do not follow up with a physician for medical care. We offer a Transition Clinic for patients ages 18 to 39 who have been off therapy for at least two years. We work with pediatric oncologists to bridge the gap to medical follow-up with a focus on managing side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, along with providing support to meet their unique needs.

I often get asked, “Why did you go into nursing?” My answer is, “I love taking care of others. It is my passion.”

At Norton Cancer Institute, we are passionate about not only caring for the body — but the person within.

– Gina Morrison, R.N.
Adolescent and Young Adult Patient Navigator

Download or sign up for a calendar of events for adolescents and young adults hosted by Norton Cancer Institute.

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