Well, the Canadian Premiere of Wrong Way To Hope: An Inspiring Story of Young Adults and Cancer will go down in history as one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was so awesome to connect with over 30 young adult survivors, many of whom it was the first time ever they have talked with another survivor their age, and to finally show the film which Bonnie and I, and Aaron and Fred from Hands On Films have worked so hard on for the past two years. This film was such a huge part of my healing journey and, as I was told many times over those two premiere nights, it is now a major part of many other healing journeys as well.
Here are a few pictures from the event and some excerpts from the before and after speeches I gave since they both really summed up what both Bonnie and I were feeling. Thanks to everyone who attended and supported us over these past two-and-a-half years. Check out www.wrongwaytohope.com to buy a DVD (available October 25) or to see when there will be a screening near you.
Wrong Way To Hope is not just about what it is like being a young adult with cancer. It is full of stories and themes that I know you all will connect with. Stories are so important to tell. I want to read you a quick paraphrase from Kitchen Table Wisdom by Dr. Naomi Remen that has shaped our philosophy a lot what we plan for our adventure trips and retreats.
“Everybody is a story and sharing our stories with others is how wisdom is passed along. Our stories are a front-row seat to the real experience. We become in that moment a guest in someone else’s life, and together with them sit at the feet of their teacher. The meaning we may draw from someone’s story may be different from the meaning they themselves have drawn. No matter. Facts bring us to knowledge, but stories lead to wisdom.”
All Bonnie and I try to do on our expeditions and at retreats is give people the opportunity to tell their story so that they can learn from it and so that others can learn from it. Telling our stories helps everyone process what they have been through in their lives and that is what YACC is all about.
Telling a story doesn’t matter if there is no one to listen to it, so thanks again for coming out and experiencing and learning with us tonight. One thing we have learned throughout this whole crazy experience, is that when you have the opportunity to do something good for the people around you, never hesitate. Just do it. If you use the skills and abilities you have to make the world around you better place, I guarantee you will not regret it.
And finally, the last story of the night. One in seven young adults diagnosed with cancer will die from it. Out of the eight of us on that trip, Alston was that one. He passed away last week on Monday after living three-and-a-half years with esophageal cancer. I say “living with esophageal cancer” because he was truly living life to the full and his life was not defined by the disease that killed him. He knew that he would not have much time left when he signed up for the expedition and as his girlfriend, Julie, said, “for him, the trip meant to live life to the fullest when he didn’t know what was going to happen to him. It meant to try to find answers and get involved as much as possible with life and with people.”
I want to read you his Facebook wall description “More life to the days, if not more days to life. Stay engaged!” Engaged is the perfect word to describe Alston. He was always listening intently, testing everything, fully engaged in every conversation, fully engaged in every relationship. We will all miss Alston so much; thankfully his openness and rawness will always be preserved for us in this film. He told me when he signed up that the expedition that it would be his legacy and I am honored that I got to be apart of that legacy.
Thank you so much for being here and being apart of this great story with us because this is a real story it does not have to end once we leave this theatre. My hope is that you take some wisdom that you gained here from these stories back into your own story, back into the larger story that we all share as being apart of humanity. Thank you.