YACC Retreat embraces survivors and supporters

March 16, 2011

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Bonnie Lang has experience as a cancer supporter. Her husband, Mikey, was diagnosed just five months after they were married. They got through it together and have gone on to be great friends and supporter of Young Adult Cancer Canada and young adults dealing with cancer throughout the whole country.

It seemed like a normal walk through the halls of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre after one of my husband’s chemo treatments; a normal quiet elevator ride back to the main floor to pay our parking fee and head back home. That was when we noticed a piece of paper on the ground in the elevator. Mikey picked it up—it was a poster for a retreat with a group called “YACC” that we’d never heard of. The words “Lake Louise” (Oh! It’s nearby!), “Young adults” (Hey! That’s Mikey!), “supporters” (Cool—that’s me!), and “free” (Why not? We’re in).

It was Tuesday, and the retreat started Thursday night, so I cancelled my clients at the gym for Friday and soon enough, Thursday evening rolled around. We anxiously got in the car, packed for an uncertain weekend feeling both nervous and excited, and hit the road.

I can’t imagine how our different our lives would have been if we had not taken a step into the unknown and traveled to that retreat. Not only did we meet a great group of survivors at that first retreat who made that weekend a memorable and significant one, but we gained a group of friends who have walked alongside us through many turns in life and gained a community of like-minded people with whom we both could relate. Besides the connections with people, we were also prompted to begin interacting with Mikey’s cancer experience rather than try to forget about it, and that set off a series of events that have changed the course of our lives.

Although I was initially concerned as to whether or not I belonged at this event as a supporter rather than a survivor, I gained a lot from the Retreat and felt like I had a place and a voice among the group and also with Mikey as I walked alongside of him. If you are supporter and think that your needs, emotions, and experiences aren’t as weighty as the survivor you are supporting, I want to encourage you to take that step alongside your survivor and attend the Retreat. Not only will you be recharged and encouraged personally, but you will watch the person you are supporting feel connected and uplifted, which in turn will brighten your mood for your friend/spouse/family member.

It was a relief to me to watch my husband interact with peers who truly understood what he was going through and took some pressure off of me as I realized that I can support to an extent with certain things but that connecting with others who have walked the same walk is a tremendous support to him. I was also affirmed as I heard numerous survivors connect on the issue of being thankful for their supporters, and I left feeling like I knew what my role was more clearly in Mikey’s cancer journey.

Today we look forward to each Retreat, embracing the first few hours of awkward moments as strangers get to know each other and share life, and anticipating the end of the weekend when we are bonded, joyful group in spite of the suffering and hardship many people are walking through. The moments of learning and connecting, shared times of laughter and tears, and feeling of support and acceptance into a community are what keeps us coming back. For survivors and supporters alike, I encourage you to think about attending a YACC Retreat and ending the isolation, doubt, and frustration you may be experiencing.

We look forward to sharing a weekend with you all!

Bonnie Lang, supporter

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