CLEVELAND — Steven Giallourakis is an expert on cancer.

He was diagnosed at 15 with Stage 4 osteosarcoma. He has survived five cancer diagnoses and lives with a depth of understanding few people have and no one wants.

What You Need To Know

  • The mission of the Steven G. Cancer Foundation: "To build community and support for the AYA (adolescent and young adult) cancer community through wellness, storytelling, education, and research"

  • Elephants and Tea is a website, Instagram and print magazine started by the Giallourakis family that offers a place for young adults with cancer to find community

  • Both entities are built around the belief that cancer survivorship and quality of life are interconnected

Early on, his parents established the Steven G. Cancer Foundation because, in Steven’s words, “She (mom) thought I was going to die.”

As a high school student being treated at Cleveland’s University Hospital Rainbow Babies & Children’s, Giallourakis didn’t fit. Rooms designed to make young children feel less afraid were alienating, but the adult cancer ward wasn’t a place for a 15 year old.

"And that's the other thing about adolescent, young adult cancer, is you’re existing in a medical system that was never designed to handle you," he said. "You have pediatric and you have adult.” 

Giallourakis said AYA stands for adolescent and young adult, and in the cancer world means someone diagnosed between 15 and 40 years old.

“At 15, I was young enough to not really grasp my mortality but old enough to understand what was going on,” Giallourakis said.

In addition to raising money for research and care, the foundation makes and distributes wellness kits to newly diagnosed young adults across the country.

Developed by Steven’s mother, the kits “consist of tools to encourage good health and positive spirit.” Items include meditation and relaxation music, aromatherapy, an exercise band and nutrition information, along with a copy of Elephants and Tea The Magazine.

“This helps patients with the psycho-social side of cancer care, which is also what has been shown to help increase survival rates,” Giallourakis said.

Elephants and Tea is a website, Instagram, and print magazine run by Steven’s brother. It offers a place for young adults with cancer to find community. The print version has readership from more than 100 countries and writers from more than a dozen.

“What really comes out is that trauma is ubiquitous," Giallourakis said, "and through those words, we're able to really understand each other’s pains. This person has been through the same thing as me. They get it."