ASK group working to help teens with cancer treatment side-effects

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More Children are surviving pediatric cancers, but they are now facing problems in their teens, 20’s and 30’s that most people won’t face until they’re older adults.

There is help here in town.

“Once they’re an ASK kid, they’re always an ASK kid,” says Britni Higginbotham.

Never has that been truer than right now.

ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation is going well beyond treatment and immediate care for pediatric cancer patients.

Doctor Madhu Gowda with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU runs Care Beyond the Cure, helping those survivors many years after their cancer treatments.

He says, “The Side Effects of cancer treatment can last for many years and can manifest many years down the line.”

Researchers are watching something called the premature aging phenomenan…where pediatric cancer survivors now in their 20’s and 30’s are dealing with heart disease, high blood pressure and other issues traditionally seen in older adults. Two-Thirds of all childhood cancer survivors will have at least one late effect from cancer or its treatment.

“They are facing difficulties making these transitions, infertility, intimacy are a problem, these are more specific adults that are maybe not able to verbalize it,” Dr. Gowda said. “They can also see PTSD and other issues many years after treatment.”

ASK has also now launched a program called the Launch Project to help cancer survivors who are in their teens and 20’s, not just physically but also mentally as they transition from high school to college and then into the real world.

Britni Higginbotham, who has a background in family counseling, runs the one-of-a-kind program that started just two months ago.

It’s a little different for each survivor.

16-year-old Aileen was getting some help applying for an afterschool job.

“Being able to apply to college, apply for FAFSA (Federal Student AId), how do they navigate that?” she says ” What resources are available to them getting a drivers license, Which all building upon that independence.”

The topics aren’t always easy ones to deal with, but the support, like the help of one cancer survivor who is homeless right now, can be life-changing.

“Some have needed a little extra push and support with transitions because it’s difficult and  scary,” Says Higginbotham “But I think that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Nearly 500 cancer survivors have taken part in the survivor programs, the organization believes there are another 500 survivors in RVA who have been treated over the past two decades that they are not in contact with.  They want to hear from them and see how they are doing.   They can call 804-828-CHOR(2467) for more info on the survivorship clinic and programs.

You can learn more about ASK here: http://www.askccf.org/

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