I faced my own mortality at 24 and lived to share AMA

Kayla Schmitz
Dec 6, 2017

An intimate account of a life detailed at 24. How one young adult navigated the chaotic health system and learned to be an advocate for herself and others, all while looking death in the eyes. This is a great AMA for anyone wanting to discuss health, health care and the medical system. Kayla is a cancer survivor who is fighting to change the care young adults receive, while capturing the experience in her premiere documentary titled "VINCIBLE."

We have a few days left on our campaign to finish VINCIBLE that you can see here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/651675149/vincible


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How long did it take you to recover from the illness?

Dec 9, 9:48AM EST0

I feel like I still am! And I'm going on year 4. Treatment side effects linger and cancer doesn't always  just "end" quickly like other health issues.

Dec 9, 12:24PM EST0

Will your film be accessible to anyone or will it be intended for a narrow circle of people?

Dec 9, 5:53AM EST0

We hope everyone sees it!

Dec 9, 12:23PM EST0

How many people will work on the creation of the film?

Dec 9, 1:46AM EST0

Dozens! So many have contributed! But our core team is 3 people.

Dec 9, 4:52AM EST0

Now that you have survived cancer, do you think you’re ready to settle down and raise your own family in the near future?

Dec 9, 12:19AM EST0

Absolutely, family is best!

Dec 9, 12:21AM EST0

Any advise for taking another chance in life?

Dec 8, 8:00PM EST0

"Don't waste your life on yourself."

Dec 8, 8:09PM EST0

What is your dream? Have you already done anything to make it a reality?

Dec 8, 6:03PM EST0

I want this film to be shared on a large platform to wake up the folks who need to be alerted and  to comfort those that feel alone!

Dec 8, 6:33PM EST0

If you were given a chance to live your life over again, do you think there’s something better you could have done to avoid getting cancer?

Dec 8, 9:29AM EST0

More greens, more exercise, less sugar.

i feel like someone who made great choices and "did everything right" but I would have loved to cut out sugar at a younger age!

Dec 8, 12:43PM EST0

On a positive note, are there any good things you discovered about yourself or your loved ones as you were going through cancer?

Dec 7, 5:30PM EST0

So many positives actually! I would never choose cancer but I wouldn't change it either. I grew so much personally and had so many special moments with loved ones and strangers because of it!

Dec 7, 11:00PM EST0

Who is your potential viewer? How many views of the movie are you planning to get?

Dec 7, 12:14PM EST0

I want everyone to see this film! Especially those in the medical field AND those touched by YA cancer in anyway.

Dec 7, 3:32PM EST0

How did you manage to overcome your fear of the uncertainty of your future?

Dec 7, 10:54AM EST0

I still struggle with this at times, but nothing like how I used to. My fears were dramatically decreased when I switched my care into a specialist, one that's many consider the best in the world. Trusting my doctors has allowed me to give my worries over to them. I let them  worry for me so I don't have to!

Dec 7, 3:31PM EST0

Why did you decide to create this film? What is your goal?

Dec 7, 4:56AM EST0

I created the film to raise awareness but also to make young adults feel less alone and give them a chance to share their voice. Film seemed more appealing to the audience than a book when I was creating the project.

Dec 7, 3:30PM EST0

Do you plan to continue shooting in the future? If so - what will your next film be about?

Dec 6, 10:10PM EST0

We'll see, have to get through this project first! I'm not a filmmaker by trade.

Dec 7, 3:29PM EST0

With some news and rumors coming out that there’s actually a cure for cancer but pharmaceutical companies are blocking it, how do you feel as a former cancer patient?

Dec 6, 5:00PM EST0

That's a tough one. I understand that healthy people don't make pharmas money. I also know that there are SO many kinds of cancer, even with a special cancer like breast cancer. So the idea of a cure for all cancers being out there but blocked is hard to wrap my head around. It's such an expansive disease. But if it were true, I'd be pretty furious for all the people still enduring horrible treatments while fighting to live!

Dec 6, 5:34PM EST0

Your trailer is wonderful. Did you make it yourself?

Dec 6, 12:52PM EST0

Thank you!! We had tremendous help from our editors in Chicago with the firm Utopic. Kat Pryor is our leader on that front if you ever need editing services!

Dec 6, 1:06PM EST0

How and where can we see your film? How much will I pay to see it?

Dec 5, 6:38AM EST0

Our distribution plan has yet to be finalized. We wanna reach for the stars and get it streamed so more people can see it, but we will host some screenings. Also, donors of certain amounts to our Kickstarter will receive a free download. You should check out our campaign or website to stay up-to-date on release info!

Dec 5, 9:29AM EST0

Cancer strikes even at the most unexpecting people at unexpected times, is there really any way to tell that someone will get cancer? Is there a certain feeling or did it take you by surprise?

Dec 4, 2:46AM EST0

While I'm not sure if there was a way to tell that I'd get cancer, I did get a certain feeling that I was sick. I felt incredibly lethargic and off for days before I found the lump. I also was experiencing night sweats. Everyone said I was probably just depressed but I knew that wasn't right. Finding the lump really set everything in motion for me. Because I knew my body so well I knew something was wrong. It was shocking to get the results but I never was surprised by it. 

Dec 5, 9:35AM EST0

How did you cope with your illness? Who or what helped you the most?

Dec 4, 1:56AM EST0

Time. I know it's cheesy and can also make you feel helpless sometimes, but time has been the best for healing. During treatment I rallied a big army of support and had dozens of people ready to help when I fell. I was very open about my fight and didn't hide much from anyone. That worked for me.

Talking about my experience with my social worker and other cancer survivors has been crucial too. Connecting with other survivors is HUGE.

Dec 5, 9:32AM EST0

What is your opinion of the local health system in general?

Dec 4, 12:23AM EST0

It can be incredibly overwhelming and easy to get lost in. They place you on a conveyor belt and send you around from office to office, often without much understanding for the patient. It's so important to have a loud voice when you're in the system or to find someone else to serve as your advocate.

i do not believe there are age appropriate resources and support for young adults facing cancer, which is why we created the film. 

Dec 5, 9:38AM EST0

Cancer is a very terrible disease. Do you think it can be avoided?

Dec 3, 7:02PM EST0

I think by doing things like genetic testing and prophylactic surgeries you can take steps to avoid it. This includes lifestyle choices too.

I was told by a doctor when I asked what caused me to get cancer that when you get cancer as young as I did, it was probably "unavoidable".

While i don't have a strong conviction either way, I will always push the importance of early detection and how that can save a life! When something feels off, get it checked out!!

Dec 5, 9:26AM EST0

Where do you get your strength to go through in a day?

Dec 3, 12:22AM EST0

Probably from NOT plowing through every day! I used to plow through things and wear myself down so badly. Now I do a much better job of slowing down when I need to and saying no to things. Sleep alone makes a huge difference. Self-care isn't selfish! 

Breaking things down into smaller tasks helps on the tough days. 

I'm also very lucky to have a large network of support and love.  I like enlisting a team on tasks but also sometimes just to get me through a day. It's been very beneficial for me to call a friend and say "hey, I'm having a really hard time doing this can you help me or help keep me accountable?" Use your friends, that's what they are there for.

Dec 3, 9:41AM EST0

Why do you think it was so difficult to get doctors to listen to you when you initially found the lump and what steps can others who might be in a similar situation take to advocate for themselves? 

Follow up...would you rather give up pizza or give up watching the office for the rest of your life?

Dec 2, 3:16PM EST0

Probably because according to every stat they've learned, they were right. I shouldn't have gotten cancer. But I did and lots of other young adults do too.

this is why it's so important to know your body and what's normal for you. And if you're having trouble advocating for yourself, find a friend with a voice louder than yours to help!

I'd give up pizza. I don't want to live in a world without the office.

Dec 3, 9:44AM EST0

What advice would you give to significant others and friends of a young adult diagnosed with cancer?

Dec 2, 3:10PM EST0

This question is an important one and another area I see lacking good resources. I think to start, you have to go all in with them and their wishes. Maybe you're scared and want them to try a specific treatment or a lifestyles change... a lot of these things are best kept to yourself because the patient needs all the positive support they can get! But as a patient you have to make a lot of big decisions and the outcomes of a decision are a little easier to take on when you owned the decision. 

I would HIGHLY recommend you find a person/group that you can share everything you're feeling. Cancer affects everyone!! Don't tuck these away and ignore them but make sure you find someone other than the patient to talk with. 

Finally, don't be afraid to ask the patient questions or talk cancer with them. Wanna know what many cancer patients/survivors wanna talk about? Cancer. Don't define them by it but you also don't have to pretend like it's not happening.

Dec 2, 3:19PM EST0

I love the trailer for your film, VINCIBLE! How did that come about and what do you hope to accomplish with the release?

Dec 2, 3:06PM EST0

Thank you! The film came about by a need I had to share the young adult cancer experience via a platform people enjoyed. Through its release, we'll bring attention to this topic and spark change for the YA cancer community. We want more age appropriate resources and support!

Dec 2, 3:12PM EST0

Whopper or Big Mac? 

Dec 2, 2:01PM EST0

2x2 w/animal fries

Dec 2, 3:10PM EST0

Who is your favorite character on the office?

Dec 2, 1:57PM EST0

I feel like a mother being asked who her favorite child is! It changes all the time, but Michael is a constant for me!

Dec 2, 3:09PM EST0
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