We can and must do better for young people with cancer. This was one of the lessons Elyssa learned from her own breast cancer experience, which started when she was 37. Elyssa’s cancer was her second major trauma. Healing from her first, about five years prior to her cancer diagnosis, had taught her the importance of psychosocial health, especially when recovering from trauma. Through Elyssa’s cancer treatment, she formed connections with other young cancer survivors whenever and wherever she could. Through those interactions, she realized the need for an in-person support group in her city and started the Denver F2F in 2018. Learning about other young adults’ cancer experiences, she quickly came to realize that a cancer diagnosis at a young age comes with unique issues that the medical community as a whole seemed to address only haphazardly. Additionally, while Elyssa’s formal background in biomedical science helped her communicate effectively with her own medical team, she is acutely aware that scientific literacy is not common among patients, but she feels strongly that this should not present a barrier to good, personalized care. She also believes good medical care must entail conversations – not lectures or a one-way flow of information – between patients and doctors. For all of these reasons, she is excited to partake in YSC’s RISE program so that she can be more effective at changing the landscape faced by young adults diagnosed with cancer.
Elyssa received her B.A. from Northwestern University in Integrated Sciences (with a minor in Latin) and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from UCSD. Her graduate research focused on the molecular mechanisms of pulmonary hypertension and included a half year clinical rotation. Elyssa’s post-doctoral work at NIMH/NIH examined the neurological mechanisms of general anesthesia and social behavior. She has published over a dozen scientific papers and presented at national and international conferences. After her post-doc, she left the lab and switched to a desk job where she has been working in biomedical communications and grants policy. She lives in Colorado with her spouse where she enjoys long distance running and biking, ballroom dancing, reading, hiking, and playing escape room games.