Cussing for a Cure
A cancer survivor finds a voice to help rally her cause.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Jackie Young bears a big koi fish tattoo on her right shoulder. In Japanese mythology the koi symbolizes strength, vivacity and determination. For Young, the tattoo is appropriate.
In February of 2004, two years after experiencing symptoms that included night sweats, lethargy, headaches, fainting, and numerous doctor visits, Young was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“That entire time I was trying to take classes and I couldn’t do it,” Young says. “[Doctors] said it was because I was stressed or suffered from depression.”
Cancer had been “overlooked” by her physicians due to her age. Young was just 22 at the time. Her doctors estimated that she had been living with the disease for two years and it had attacked both of her lymph nodes.
The treatment regimen had to be aggressive or any chance of survival would have dissipated quickly. Young underwent chemotherapy and radiation every week at Stanford Cancer Center for a year.
Young wore a T-shirt of her own design to one of her weekly chemo treatments. The black cotton tee had two words, written in white on the front: “Fuck Cancer.”
The phrase stirred up discussion amongst a “usually silent” group of patients.
“When I wore that shirt, people would stop to tell me their stories,” Young says. “[The shirt] brought people together.” Using the shirt’s popularity as a platform, in 2005 Young started Young Cures, an organization that raises money that goes directly to cancer research through the sale of Young’s T-shirts.
“I was helping with organizations like the American Cancer Society but I found out that most of the money they raise goes to [cancer] awareness,” she says. “With their high overhead barely any goes to cancer research.”
Young has been cancer-free for two years and is now a junior at CSU Monterey Bay majoring in human communications. While school is her first priority, Young Cures is a close second. Now 26, Young spends almost all of her free time spreading the word about her cause.
Young says the shirts have other positive effects beyond fundraising: “Some people tell me that wearing the shirt is empowering for them.”
Local hospitals have inquired about carrying the shirts and Young says they will soon be for sale at the Old Monterey Farmers Market.
For more information, visit youngcures.org