All posts by Andreas Christodoulou

Youth Cancer Europe 2017 Meeting – ‘Patients Are Not Alone’

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.

Overcoming a Chronic Disease: The Best is Yet to Come

Hello, my name is Andreas, I am 27 years old and I come from Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. I may look like a typical guy living his own life in full but that is far away from reality.

When I was just 17 I was diagnosed with IPT (inflammatory pseudotumor) disease. IPT disease is a rare chronic condition which is mimicking processes from neoplasma of malignant tumors and that is why it is also called “the great mimicker”. As IPT is a rare condition, classified as a rare cancer type, my diagnosis was really difficult to establish.

I was in Israel for medical investigation for four months when my condition was identified, and accepting my diagnosis was anything but easy, especially for my family.

Living with a chronic disease is an everyday struggle especially for the people that cares for you. Family and friends are fully involved and thanks to the strength and support of those wonderful people, I have been able to overcome my fears, learn more about my condition and organise my life to allow for treatment schedules and medical exams.

That said, I strongly believe that my chronic disease changes me not only physically but also mentally. Your whole world around turns in a flash and your inner power fades out. I have experienced discrimination and hardships throughout my life but that made me stronger and willing to help other patients understand and take on any disease that they have to overcome.

The same passion of helping and empowering patients led me to work in one of the biggest cancer awareness and prevention organisation in my country. I have learned to challenge myself by listening to other people’s experience and grow from their knowledge and wisdom.

I am a strong supporter of taking control over your life. This is the reason why I feel really lucky about joining the EPF Youth Group as sharing our knowledge and experiences will help me as an individual in the process of helping others.

I can’t wait to start this new chapter in my life. The best is yet to come.