Cancer has a way of disrupting someone’s life. From dreaded chemotherapy infusions and intrusive procedures to piles of medical bills and authorizations, cancer inserts itself into a patient’s daily life.

While all cancer patients experience problems, young cancer patients have a unique set of challenges – fertility, young children to care for, finishing up educational degrees and more. To assist young cancer patients on their journey, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center has received a $15,000 grant from Susan G. Komen L.A. County to create a young survivor's support group.

While family and friends can offer support to someone diagnosed with cancer, they can never truly understand what the patient is experiencing. Peers who also have been diagnosed with cancer can provide support, but young cancer patients often feel alone in larger support groups of a different age.

“The goal of this support group is to provide a place for young cancer patients, under age 49, to share their experiences and learn special skills to address them,” says Mariusz Wirga, M.D., medical director, Psychosocial Oncology ProgramMemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “These patients face many unique challenges and similarly aged peer-to-peer support, and learning provides a safe space for them to share all of their thoughts and feelings. Concerns that they may not want to burden their families with, or feelings that no one else can understand.”

The Young Cancer Survivor Support Group is open to men and women, under the age of 49, with any type of cancer, and is led by a licensed marriage and family therapist. The group is held the third Tuesday of each month at the Todd Cancer Pavilion. For more information, call 562.933.7815.

“We are very grateful for this generous grant from Susan G. Komen L.A. County,” says Dr. Wirga. “This support group is essential for our community, and I know it will provide a place of healing for many.”

In addition to the Young Cancer Survivor Support Group, the grant from Susan G. Komen L.A. County will provide support for the annual Survivorship Celebration and Love Your Mentors Fashion Show. The grant also will assist the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute in hosting seven educational speakers on topics important to young survivors.