Chemotherapy. Hair Loss. Pain. These are the first things that come to mind when you think about cancer. But for young adults diagnosed with the life-threatening disease, they face an entirely different set of issues: abandoning budding careers and facing hospital bills stacked on student loans.
“These young adults, primarily in their 20s and 30s, are just stuck in life compared to others [their] age,” says Stephanie Scoletti, founder and director of YACS (Young Adult Cancer Support). “[This is a time] when people are getting jobs, getting married, forming families, having babies, just growing professionally.”
Scoletti wants to help.
That’s where the annual Wig Out fundraiser comes in. Money raised will fund YACS, a division of the Cancer Caring Center, a local non-profit organization dedicated to assisting those living with cancer, as well as their friends and family.
Scoletti created CCC and started YACS seven years ago to provide young adults with specific services. Diagnosed at 20, Scoletti beat leukemia then went back to school and changed her major to social work. At the time, there was no program offered in Western Pennsylvania exclusively for young-adult cancer patients and survivors. It was during those meetings that Scoletti heard and realized the unique needs of the group.
“There are a lot of big decisions you have to make when you’re a young adult and different ways that it can impact your life rather than being diagnosed at an older age,” says Christine Sherman, a member of YACS, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 30.
“I was right smack in the middle of the young adult age group, in terms of cancer population. I couldn’t work while in treatment, I had to put my career on hold. It puts a pause on your life when you’re in that age bracket.”
To help alleviate some problems that young adult survivors deal with, Scoletti expanded YACS to include social and financial help. Members can participate in monthly social activities, such as attending Pirates games, a yearly potluck Thanksgiving, paint nights, cooking classes, and overnight retreats.
Scoletti explains the activities are uplifting and help form relationships with each other.
“It’s a place for support where people get you, and it’s nonjudgmental,” says Sherman. She attended her first meeting in August of 2014, the same day she received her third diagnosis.
“It’s hard when you’re a young adult because most of the people who are going through treatment aren’t the same age as you, [and] don’t have the same experience. So, it can be challenging to find people who relate to you and understand.”
Beyond social outings, YACS offers yearly stipends to those who need financial assistance. The stipend started in 2014 as $100 per year and is now up to $300. “We know it’s not meeting all the expense needs, but it’s helping,” says Scoletti.
This year, the 7th annual Wig Out takes places at Tequila Cowboy and will have beer and liquor sampling, an endless taco bar, a photo booth, and more. There’s even a best wig contest, which Sherman won last year.
7th Annual Wig Out. Thu., Oct. 18. 6-9 p.m. Tequila Cowboy. 380 North Shore Drive, North Side. 2018wigout.eventbrite.com
“We get really competitive.” Some even come in full costumes, but it’s all about raising money for cancer patients and survivors.
“And by the end of the night everyone is dancing,” said Scoletti. So, grab a wig and join YACS to celebrate everyone that’s been diagnosed, are in treatment, have been in treatment, and those who have lost the battle.