By Dee Westwood
Life is short.
Don’t tell yourself your dreams can wait until the kids are older, you get that promotion, the house is paid off, whatever.
I hiked a mountain with a bunch of people unwilling to wait for the perfect time. It’s totally a big deal, and I’m super proud of us, by the way.
I did it during Young Adult Cancer Canada’s (YACC) Retreat Yourself Adventure. Every participant in this retreat is a cancer survivor under 40. One had an ostomy bag. One had a titanium femur and less than half of her quads in one leg. Her doctors told she might not be able to cycle again, and she climbed the freaking mountain. One had less than half of her bladder left and needs to pee all the time. One had a brain tumour that presses on her optic nerve when her blood pressure goes up, like when you’re climbing a mountain, and makes her vision go fuzzy. Two were missing their thyroids. One was legally blind, and made it up 1000 feet. Had the days been the long days of summer, he would have summited; ten hours wasn’t quite long enough for him to get there, but he still hiked for seven hours. Every other participant summited.
Sometimes life takes detours and doesn’t turn out as planned. Maybe you’ll get to hike that mountain, or skydive, or ride a motorcycle through the Americas, or go back to school and get that diploma or degree, or adopt that puppy, or take that trip, or volunteer with that group, or whatever. And maybe you won’t. Maybe life will get in the way. Maybe you’ll get breast cancer at 35 like me. But if you don’t take the next step toward that goal, it’s never gonna happen.
Three years ago, I wondered if I was even going make it to my 39th birthday, never mind hike Gros Morne. The mental fortitude it took ALL of us to do it, and finish, most of us smiling through the aches and pains, was immense.
Stop telling yourself all the reasons why you can’t do something. Stop listening to all the people who tell you why you can’t do what you deeply feel you need to do. Those people just aren’t your people.
There will always be obstacles. The mountain might seem to go on for-freaking-ever. But you can do anything you set your mind to. Be like my new friend Kai and climb your mountain, with very limited eyesight, dodging rocks and puddles for as long as it takes, getting your feet wet, falling down and getting back up, and making your way, step by freaking step, because you CAN.
Life is grand, but it’s so damned short, even when it’s long.
Events like Retreat Yourself Adventure are made possible thanks to the generosity of our donors. Every cancer, every stage, YACC’s got the backs of young adults affected by cancer, but we couldn’t do that without your support. Thank you! You’re changing lives.