As a Master’s student in Social Work at UNC, a substantial portion of the second-year is a “Field Placement.” With two days of classes and three days of field each week, the process of ranking potential positions of interest is a challenge for many students. As someone who loathes the thought of making loaded decisions, I looked over the seemingly endless list of options begrudgingly. Then I read Lauren Lux’s job title within UNC’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program: Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Program Director. Is this a real job?!
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find a field placement that combined my desire to work with AYAs and my years of cancer and supportive care research so seamlessly. So here I am: seven months in, and even more excited to show up tomorrow than I was on day one. Why? Because each and every day, I get to meet new people who choose to open up and share their own genuine stories.
When I enter a patient’s room, I never know what to expect. We meet people on their good days, and their really, really terrible/scary/lonely/frustrating/hard days. But when I say goodbye, I always leave knowing a little bit more about the hip-hop dancer, the veteran, the nature lover, the photographer, or the beat boxer who sits on the other side of that door. I leave hopeful that we can collaborate to come up with a way for her to maintain her identity throughout her treatment.
Back in the office, Lauren and I spend a lot of time exploring ways to turn our patients’ diverse interests into innovative advances in the way providers care for AYA cancer patients at UNC. Sometimes this takes the form of connecting people with existing resources or overseeing program development; other times it means advocating for a patient’s voice to be heard, or planning events that help foster a sense of community. It also means expanding the research base so that providers across the country and around the world can better understand how to adequately support this unique population. One project I’m particularly excited about is examing the positive affects that massage therapy has on our AYA patients at UNC.
I’m so grateful for my time spent at UNC. I learn from our patients every day. And in case you’re still curious about the answer to my initial question: YES! Thanks to the ongoing support of the amazing community that powers the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, this IS a real job.