By the age of seven, Tanya Zekovitch already understood what it was like to be a cancer patient after being treated for Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. So when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the summer of 2000, when she was still only in her early 20's, she felt lucky to find that Penn's Abramson Cancer Center offered patient support specialits and counselors to help patients cope with their diagnosis, not only to navigate the medical system, but also to address their emotional needs. Having benefited from counseling services when she was treated as a child, Tanya found Mindy Weismer, a Patient Service Coordinator, and they quickly developed a close relationship. Tanya recalls her experience, "Mindy became like another family member." As a social worker, Mindy was an important source of support to Tanya as she underwent treatment and she inspired her to want to help other young adult cancer survivors. Tanya has followed through on that wish of helping other patients at the Abramson Cancer Center by creating a nonprofit, Cancer Survivors Unite (CSU), that provides supportive programs and informational resources to young adults affected by cancer.
What began as a website has blossomed into a full scale non-profit organization dedicated to the needs of young adult cancer survivors. Tanya serves as a mentor to high school students interested in giving back and supporting cancer survivorship. She recently reached her 10 year anniversary of being cancer free. Given all the time Tanya spent in and around hospitals, she developed an interest in medicine, and was cleared to run with her local rescue squad and is currently training to be a certified EMT. Just as Mindy made a meaningful impact on Tanya as she coped with her treatments, Tanya continues to bring awareness to the needs of cancer survivors and provide support to others as they go through their cancer treatments and transition into survivorship.
For more information on Cancer Survivors Unite, please visit www.CancerSurvivorsUnite.org