I just got off the phone with an inspirational young woman who has spent two and a half years of her teen life battling cancer; and won.
Lauren Donnelly from Georgetown, Ont., (that’s her in the picture) was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (the most common cancer in children) at age 15. Now 19 years old and in remission, she is dedicated to helping other teens with cancer connect through a new social media website called Teen Connector.
Recently launched by the Childhood Cancer Foundation, Teen Connector was created for teens by teens, including Donnelly who acted as a consultant while the site was being developed.
‘It’s something that I would have loved to have had when I was sick,’ she says about the site. ‘I’ve had joint replacements as a result of damage done from medication I was on as part of my treatment. I felt like the only person I was going to be able to talk to about that was a 70-year-old. So it was important for me that teens have a platform to speak to one another in a comfortable environment.’
Now acting as the site coordinator and mentor to younger teens living with cancer, Donnelly hopes to help other teens with cancer connect in a way they may not be able to do in support groups or with adults who don’t fully understand their experience.
‘I feel like a lot of teenagers are uncomfortable [in support groups], she describes. ‘You’re going through puberty, you’re experiencing lots of body changes and you want to ask embarrassing questions. It’s more comfortable to do that anonymously from your computer.’
Teen Connector lets users build a profile much like they would on a social networking site like Facebook. From there they can upload photos, write on walls add friends and play games. Then there are discussion forums that relate directly to kids with cancer, dealing with topics like what you can expect from treatment and where to find a wig. The site will also match users with an older teen or young-adult mentor who has gone through a childhood cancer experience.
Today, Donnelly is still to recover from surgeries related to damage caused by her treatment, but she’s looking forward to going to journalism school in the future. She also hopes to see Teen Connector grow to support hundreds of young people just like her. ‘I hope it will help teens feel a little bit of relief in terms of dealing with their illness and not feeling alone.’
Do you know a teen who is dealing with disease? Would you introduce him/her to Teen Connector?