The National Children’s Cancer Society Urges Early Preparation for Childhood Cancer Survivors Who Are Headed to College This Fall

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For this spring’s high school graduates, choosing a college has been one of life’s biggest challenges.

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Our goal in working with them is to help facilitate a smooth and positive transition to college and connect them with support for managing their healthcare needs.

For this spring’s high school graduates, choosing a college has been one of life’s biggest challenges. But teens who are also childhood cancer survivors will face more than just a move away from mom and dad in the fall as they deal not only with college life but healthcare issues that may affect their higher education experience.

The National Children’s Cancer Society, which works closely with survivors to help them navigate life after cancer, is urging all new college students to learn as much as possible about ways to make their transition a smooth and positive one. The NCCS offers students a comprehensive guide to college transition on its website that includes both traditional tips about navigating college life as well as specific recommendations for dealing with cancer-related health issues.

“Many childhood cancer survivors have late effects, or long-term health problems, related to their cancer treatment,” said Pam Gabris, director of the survivor-focused Beyond the Cure program at the NCCS. “Our goal in working with them is to help facilitate a smooth and positive transition to college and connect them with support for managing their healthcare needs.”

The pamphlet includes information about services available to survivors through the American With Disabilities Act and other federal laws that protect their rights, specific funding sources available to help with college expenses, and tips for accurate medical record keeping.

The goal, added Gabris, is to empower students to be their own best advocate. “This is a time when they are transitioning not only to college, but from childhood to adulthood, so we are here to help them with all aspects of this big change in their lives. That includes providing guidance for managing their health needs, and resources such as long-term follow-up clinics that can help them with long-term monitoring and care.”

The NCCS also encourages students to contact their college’s disability or academic resource centers before they start school. Those departments are designed to assist cancer survivors with any support and/or accommodations they may need to succeed in their classes.

Survivor Jennifer Toth said this kind of support during her transition to college and journey through her degree program was invaluable. “As a cancer survivor, I am so thankful for organizations like the NCCS that recognize the long-lasting impacts of a pediatric cancer diagnosis and provide resources to survivors as they move forward and pursue their dreams,” said Toth, who has now graduated and is working as a registered nurse.

Childhood cancer survivors can find college to be a positive and successful experience. A study published by the National Institutes of Health found that survivors can experience healthy emotional growth in college as a result of their cancer experience and generally are able to make informed choices about engaging in high-risk behaviors. Childhood cancer survivors can have a strong foundation of self-awareness and self-worth as a result of their cancer experience, which can assist them in making a successful transition into college life and in enjoying positive collegiate experiences.

“Most of the students we work with are doing well in college,” agreed Gabris. “They are smart, resilient and focused. Their experience surviving cancer provides them the determination they need to achieve their college and career goals.”

About The National Children’s Cancer Society
The mission of The National Children's Cancer Society is to provide emotional, financial and educational support to children with cancer, their families and survivors. To learn more about the NCCS and its support services, visit thenccs.org. The “Making the Right Transition into College” pamphlet can be downloaded at https://thenccs.org/file/publications/transition-to-college.pdf. The National Children’s Cancer Society is a 501C(3) organization that has provided over $62 million in direct financial assistance to more than 38,000 children with cancer. To contact the NCCS, call (314) 241-1600. You can also visit the NCCS on Facebook.

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Lori Millner
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