Too young and healthy for this

Beth Brunelle had just marked her 35th birthday in 2008 when she got her double diagnosis for both uterine and ovarian cancer.

The news shocked Beth, her partner, and her family. Cancer did not run in her family, and until her diagnosis she had enjoyed good health. She spent time with her dog outdoors, hitting the hiking trails with friends, and playing several instruments in Ithaca-area music groups. “It felt like I was too young and healthy to have cancer,” Beth recalls.

After receiving the diagnosis, her first stop on the way home was the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. Along with the clinical care she receives from the Cayuga Cancer Center at Cayuga Medical Center, the Cancer Resource Center provides her with counseling and support as she navigates her complex illness.

Beth has had cancer surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments in both Ithaca and Rochester. She now receives chemotherapy at the Cayuga Hematology Oncology Associates offi ce at 10 Arrowwood Drive in Cayuga Medical Center’s East Campus. Early in her treatments, she attended a women’s group that met at the Cancer Resource Center.

“The group helped because they knew how cancer and cancer treatment affect your life and others around you,” Beth says.

The group’s members were older than Beth and their life experiences — that included adult children and grandchildren, retirement, and more choices about leisure time — did not fi t the young adult life of a 30-something like Beth.

“Because of my health issues, l was also out of work,” Beth recalls. “I was bald, needing a job, seeing medical bills coming every few days, and very stressed.” While facing those concerns, she realized other young adults managing life with cancer also needed a support group. The Cancer Resource Center helped her start a young adult support group that today has about nine members including both patients and caregivers in their 20s to 40s. Group members and the Cancer Resource Center help with insurance and financial counseling, connecting with Small Comforts, an Ithaca foundation that assists people living with a chronic illness, and developing a social network with other young adults with common leisure interests and familiar health concerns.

“There are times we cry and times we laugh,” Beth says. “I can’t imagine going through cancer without them.”

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