Episode 11: Advocating for yourself as an AYA cancer patient and paying it forward with Bay Area Young Survivors (BAYS) board member, Yvonne Tou


Key highlights:

1. Experiencing breast cancer as an AYA (adolescent and young adult)

2. Self-care, the role of journaling and mental health as a cancer patient

3. The role and impact of community for supporting young cancer survivors and patients

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About our guests


Yvonne had been working in healthcare for over 9 years when she felt a tightness in her left chest. At first she thought it was from doing too many push ups or a pulled muscle. When she examined it closely, she discovered a lump. Yvonne waited 2 weeks to see her OB/Gyn. She ended up getting her first (of many) mammograms the day after Christmas, followed by a biopsy. She received the fated cancer call the Monday before New Year's Eve in 2019. Diagnosed at 37, Yvonne started treatment in 2020. She (along with the podcast host, Samira Daswani) experience the new healthcare environment with the introduction of Covid-19 to the world. Navigating cancer is one thing, navigating cancer during a pandemic is a whole other world. Both Yvonne and Samira share their experiences in this episode on what it was like to manage both C's -- Cancer & Covid.

When face masks became the norm, and 6-feet apart the slogan, as an immunocompromised person, it was a terrifying time. Going to the hospital for appointments, treatments, and sadly, being admitted, had a whole new isolation to it. The healing promise became all the more challenging.

Yvonne had amazing support from her family and close friends in spite of these social distancing protocols. Yvonne finished her last chemo infusion in July 2020 when she ventured into UCSF’s gift shop. There she saw a book with a title that made her smile under her hospital given mask. “Agony and Absurdity: Adventures in Cancer-land. Young Women and Breast Cancer An Anthology.” This is how Yvonne found BAYS. Yvonne has been a member of BAYS after her “active” treatment ended. She is currently on the committee for the 4th Anthology. Yvonne looks forward to helping the fellow members as BAYS has helped her with her survivorship journey.

Watch the video of our episode on YouTube

  • 11 minutes and 26 seconds:

    “I think the biggest learning from the tribe is self care and acknowledging that is it is okay to slow down and it is okay to not do the 5 million things you were doing before you were diagnosed with breast cancer.”

  • 32 minutes and 41 seconds:

    “I would like to see a world in which patients and caregivers are comfortable in looking at their data, feel comfortable balancing risk vis-a-vis their quality of life, vis-a-vis their context of life “

  • 35 minutes and 43 seconds:

    “Not everyone can grasp the concept of clinical trial...if you understand what your options are, it is super helpful to feel that you are not just  a thing in a petri dish for them to look at, you are more than that."

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