Young people isolated by diagnosis of cancer

When Craig O’Grady was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, he felt alone. 

At 22, he found himself unable to relate to his peers and hesitant to burden family members.

Mr O’Grady spent hours alone in chemotherapy and since 2011 has been re-diagnosed three more times.

The cancer that began in his groin was later found in his lung, then returned to his groin and then to his lung again.

Now 29, he says it was six years after his initial diagnosis that he had begun to process the reality of living with cancer. 

“It wasn’t until the start of this year I actually dealt with it,” he said. “Support was out there but when you get diagnosed they give you a bag full of pamphlets about groups – that’s it.

“You feel like, ‘why would I want to see a stranger and tell my story all over again?’.

“There needs to be a better way.”

Now Mr O’Grady is determined no young cancer patient will experience the isolation he felt.

Through Chat4Cure he is creating social platforms where young people aged up to 35 can find virtual support.

“I want to encourage people to seek support early so they don’t go through what I did for six years,” he said.

SUPPORTER: Craig with wife Rebecca.

SUPPORTER: Craig with wife Rebecca.

Mr O’Grady said support was available on the Border, but young people weren’t accessing it. 

“After you go through something like cancer or being diagnosed, you don’t really want to talk about it,” he said.

“It’s definitely hard for people to relate to – people don’t want to talk about it, people aren’t sure if you’ll be alive or dead. People don’t know how to support you.”

Mr O’Grady has started Chat4Cure to provide young people modern ways to connect to someone of a similar age who can guide them towards other support services. 

“I want people to be able to talk to someone around their age and who’s gone through surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation,” he said. “When you sit in a chemo chair for hours, your phone is your best friend.”

Only weeks after touching base with the Cancer Council of NSW about forming Chat4Cure, Mr O’Grady discovered two new spots had appeared on his lung. 

His cancer was back for the fourth time. 

“When they found out the Cancer Centre said to look after myself and not to worry about others – but this is something I want to do,” he said. “I guess I want to make sure no young person goes through what I went through.”

Contact Mr O’Grady at his Chat4Cure Facebook page