Andreas Christodoulou (EPF Youth Group and cancer survivor) attended the recent congress of Young Cancer Europe held in Vilnius Lithuania in late August. A great opportunity for him to share his experience and learn best practices from fellow patients.
The meeting, entitled “The Next Generation of Patient Advocates” connected a new generation of patient advocates, providing a platform for young delegates from 25 counties to share experiences and work on a collective action plan to transform the way the medical profession engages with young cancer patients. An energetic and friendly group from the Lithuanian Junior Doctors Association kindly facilitated the meeting, capturing key discussion points and organising evening activities to create opportunities to share experiences and forge friendships in a more relaxed setting. It was really empowering to be around 50 young cancer survivors or young patients currently undergoing treatment for it.
Participants came from various countries, sharing examples of best (and in some cases worst) practice within their disease areas. The main message all delegates took home is that Young Patients want to be active and that “they are not alone”. Young people are the future of the labour market and ultimately of our society, and this accounts for young patients too.
The discussion allowed for participants to debate common priorities, based on the barriers patients are facing, and to draw some recommendations for future policy measures and actions.
We thus learned that many patients hide their condition, for they are afraid of losing a job opportunity, being dismissed by their family, or friends or for fear of the reaction from society in general. This demonstrates that discrimination in the daily life context is still a challenge for most of young patients.
Another top priority emerging from the conference is the need for equal access to the most effective medical treatment across all countries in Europe, echoing the EPF Campaign on Universal Access to Healthcare.
Finally, participants called for a strong support to rehabilitation programmes, as the impact of cancer or any related condition does not stop when treatment is over. Patients in the room underlined how crucial this phase is for cancer survivor to go back to a normal life and increase chance of preventing the reoccurrence of symptoms.
As the meeting came to an end, I was impressed with the commitment and the courage of all the participants and I am sure that we all will embody Dr. Seuss’ saying “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” After all, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” as Mahatma Gandhi said.