Last month, the third week of January was officially declared as Teen Cancer Awareness Week. The resolution passed in Senate with a unanimous vote.
On Monday, Jan. 14, Sen. Robert Menendez made a trip to Virtua in Voorhees to present recognition to the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation (ARVF) and its national effort to include teen lounges in hospitals and to announce the resolution.
The National Cancer Institute reports that individuals between 15 and 39 years old are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than children younger than 15. Seventy thousand people between 15 and 39 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and approximately 80 percent of children diagnosed are alive at least five years after diagnosis.
Adults, children and teens may go through similar treatments visiting hospitals on a constant basis. But medical treatment might be the only thing these age groups have in common. Besides age, children and adults are separated from teens when it comes to a place of relaxation during treatment.
“Being a teenager is hard enough. [It’s] a time in life when we’re caught between two worlds – too old to be treated as children, but not quite yet adults,” Menendez said while presenting the resolution to the DiNatale family and Virtua Hospital, adding teens battling cancer have an addition to that obstacle in life.
Deputy Mayor Mario DiNatale and his wife, Giselle, created ARVF after their daughter was diagnosed with a rare case of cancer at 17.
Alicia Rose lost her battle after 13 months of treatment and many trips to the hospital. But her parents wanted to continue to help teens and their families during treatment.
The foundation has established approximately 60 teen lounges across the nation.
The lounges are designed to make teens feel more comfortable during their treatment.
The teen lounges are supposed to give teens a sense of normalcy, and it’s a way to let them know they are not forgotten, Mario said.
ARVF is “trying to build awareness,” Giselle said.
“We don’t want them to think that they have fallen through the cracks,” Mario said, adding that establishing Teen Cancer Awareness Week will help with additional acknowledgment.
Recognizing the continued efforts of the DiNatale family and importance of teens having a place to be a teenager, Menendez said the lounges are “unique and simple.” They allow teenagers to be teenagers, he said.
Keara Palmay, 22, also joined in on the celebration. Palmay, diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 17, now has her bachelors in science and is looking to go to graduate school after she takes a year off.
She was glad to see something in hospitals for teens.
“I think it’s great. Teens always want to fit in,” she said.
Teen Cancer Awareness Week is from Jan. 21 to Jan. 25.
The Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation (ARVF) is continually receiving applications for teen lounges across the U.S. The foundation also donates Teen Kits to newly admitted and diagnosed teenage patients who have a life-threatening illness. For more information on the ARVF, visit www.arfv.org or call (856) 784-0615.