The young advocate

This blog is final part of a series about young adults with cancer. If you missed them, you can read the first post and second post.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is usually unexpected. Receiving a cancer diagnosis after a major car accident? Definitely unexpected.Four days before her 21st birthday, Amira Duck was driving her mini cooper when she noticed the truck in front of her starting to fishtail on the slick road. The trailer behind the truck smashed into her car and sent them spinning into oncoming traffic. Her friend was rushed to the hospital while Amira waited at the scene before being taken to the ER. Her foot was crushed, but it was a Friday night in Dallas, so she waited from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. to be seen and receive a CT scan. The doctor came in and told her there was good news and bad news--the good news was the foot wasn't broken; the bad news: she had a tumor.

From that point, Amira had a biopsy (diagnosis--thyroid cancer), thyroidectomy and radiation treatment. When she went in for radiation she just wanted to get back to her college classes. However, she quickly learned that people are usually quarantined following radiation, and she felt isolated and couldn't even pet her dog. And while she still attended class when not being treated, she spent that time in class worrying about her next scan. At the time, the only people she knew who had had cancer were older, like her grandfather. She was in college, trying to be normal, and found herself bargaining, saying, "If I live, I'll be healthier."

She also found herself losing a lot of friends because as she says, "people are scared" and they didn't quite understand what it all meant.However, Amira did find people who could understand her experiences after she moved to Colorado. She became active with First Descents, which promotes adventure therapy for young adults. She refers to her FD "family," which consists of friends she's made in the program--friends she says she'll keep forever. She says it's a different experience because when you're going in for scans, you can text your friends, and since they've been through it, they'll understand. At camp, they discuss side effects and fears.Now, Amira is giving back because it has helped her so much. She sits on FD's committee for their fundraising ball (a hat party, as she describes it) and has been on three trips with First Descents.

Now, she's planning her fourth: climbing to the summit of Mt. Hood and skiing down. She'll also participate in an upcoming 42-mile bike race.

Now, Amira is healthier, having turned to athletics after her treatment--and she's truly living in every sense of the word.Check out a video of Amira (and FD's founder Brad Ludden) talking about her experience with FD on CNN: