The Making of an Advocate: Stephanie Samolovitch


Stephanie Samolovitch was a late bloomer when it came to advocating for young adults (YA) with cancer. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005 at age 19, but it wasn’t until six years later, after she’d graduated with a master’s degree in social work, that she realized few organizations provided the emotional, social, and financial support needed by YA cancer community members.

“While in college and grad school, I shared my own scary story with anyone who’d listen,” Samolovitch says. “Then I started my first job — as an intern and, next, as director of support services — at the Cancer Caring Center in Pittsburgh, where I recognized that other young adults with cancer needed to share their stories with other YAs.”

With the center’s encouragement, she started a passion project hosting a monthly YA support group serving western Pennsylvania. “It provided a safe space where they could share their stories, offer each other nonjudgmental support, and know that what was said in the room stayed in the room,” Samolovitch says.

By 2014, it was clear that this particular age-group needed something more than just a safe space, she says. “They needed to get out of the house. They needed positive, fun experiences with others who ‘get it.’” The “it,” she says, was the uniqueness of this cancer community, from diagnosis and treatment through survivorship, with its attendant concerns about the risks of recurrence, secondary cancers, and treatment-related long-term effects.


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