"The practicalities of life are what holds us back as adults, but youthful optimism has no such limitations".
Towards the end of last year, I was fortunate to receive a student placement with the Children’s Tumour Foundation (CTF) as part of my Melbourne University ‘Master of Genetic Counselling’ course.
Alongside two of my fellow classmates, we were tasked with developing a set of new school-based resources that would support students with NF. The information gathered from other team members, teachers, medical professionals and parents was insightful and certainly helped us to develop a useful suite of resources, but it was not the most rewarding aspect of my placement.
We were invited to sit in on a NF Connect session for young people, which certainly had the most impact on me. This session provided me with a moment of personal reflection too.
As a parent myself, I was impressed and refreshed by the young adults’ positivity while living and managing such an unpredictable genetic condition. Many of these young adults have already undergone multiple surgeries for tumour removal or endured treatments such as, chemotherapy.
Not only were they a positive reminder of what is possible, but their ideas for creating change in the wider community was inspirational. As digital natives with technology to create videos or interactive platforms like apps at their fingertips, this generation are without doubt the most adept and qualified to create, use and share their knowledge of NF most effectively.
I see such value in their thinking and believe that it could not only empower them, but also provide fresh thinking to an age-old problem – how do we create awareness at scale for a condition that few people have heard of and believe they will never be affected by?
The practicalities of life are what holds us back as adults, but youthful optimism has no such limitations.
They question the status quo, challenge convention and have the power to shift current paradigms of knowledge. This can only be a good thing and lead to new discoveries, treatments and ways of talking to people about NF.
I hope to see the positive thinking, ability to question and application of new technology develop into amazing shifts in knowledge over the duration of my future career of genetic counsellor. I am sure we are all going to be amazed at what the adults of the future can do and the advances they will drive, particularly in the medical domain. I hope to see these ideas coming to fruition in the future.
For me, this placement will remind me to never start treatment from a place of negativity or despair, but to consider how this one person can be a positive influence on the world. Technologies will change, but the emotions and needs of my clients will remain.
The positive attitudes of the NF youth community have allowed me to see optimism in action and I only hope my daughter has the same attitude throughout her life.
Blog post written by Andrew Coventry, Genetic Counselling student at University of Melbourne