Meet Sara, a 33-year-old from Finland, whose experience with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) began at the age of 26. Despite facing challenges, Sara’s resilience shines through as she shares insights on navigating cancer treatment, finding strength in relationships, and advocating for young adult cancer patients.

aml leukemia survivor sara finland

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

My name is Sara. I’m 33 and from Finland.

What’s your diagnosis?

Acute myeloid leukemia, AML for short.

How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

At 26 I was suddenly hospitalized due to bleeding non stop. Looking back, I had other symptoms such as back to back infections and fatigue but they were so easily explained away by stress.

What has the cancer experience taught you?

That I’m so resilient! I have been through so much and I’m still able to continue and enjoy life. After the end of my active treatment, I struggled very much mentally but I was still able to advocate for myself and find the right provider to help me.

What helped you the most during the treatment process?

My family and friends. I will be forever grateful to all of them for being there for me and for keeping me in the loop and not treating me as a patient. There were so many people ready to visit me, that I had to keep track of everything with my calendar!

aml survivor sara from Finland

What would you like to accomplish within EU-CAYAS-NET?

I’d like to help create a stronger bond between our national and other European associations. There are so few AYA-patients in Finland, that sometimes peer-support just isn’t feasible, so maybe European peers could help bridge that gap. There are also so many excellent resources produced by this network, that it would be a shame not to take advantage of it and instead try to do everything ourselves.

What do you do in your free time?

I’m an active member of a few cancer associations, advocating for young adults. I try to balance this by keeping in touch with my friends and going out. I spent so much time confined to my hospital room or at home, that now I try to go out and experience everything! Museums, theaters, village fairs… You name it, I’m there!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“This too will pass”. Said to me by my favorite nurse when I couldn’t see the end of my treatments and depression was creeping its way in my mind. It’s such a small change in thinking with such a big impact. I use it even now when I feel stuck, down or frustrated with new hurdles.

What personal goal would you like to achieve next?

I have been having long term side effects that keep me from being as active as I would like. My short term goal is to be able to run long distances and then, one day participate in the World Transplant Games!

How do you cope when things get hard?

I have been learning to open up to my loved ones. Instinctively, I would bottle everything up and isolate myself from everyone but since that only makes everything harder, I have started to articulate my feelings. I’ve noticed that it really helps! Reciprocity is key here, because I don’t want anyone to feel like an unpaid therapist.

What lesson was hardest for you to learn?

That my life will never be as it once was. I spent so much time thinking that once I got through my treatments and back in shape, I could resume my life. I had to mourn the loss of my carefree life and learn to accept this new chapter. Once I stopped comparing myself to others or my younger self, life got so much better.

acute myeloid leukemia survivor sara

Which app do you use the most on your phone?

Probably Instagram. I’m really bad at sharing my life there but I love sending and receiving memes and fun clips. I also like to see what all of my new EU-CAYAS-NET friends are up to!

What’s the last thing you watched on TV/internet/Netflix and why did you choose to watch it?

I watched Normal People. It was such a good reminder that normalcy really doesn’t exist and we all have demons. It’s so easy to get lost in the huge pit that is cancer, that sometimes you forget that life deals difficulties to us all even when everything goes well.