By Becky MacLean
I must admit that I don’t feel like I’ve got a lot to offer for the blog this month. The past month has been both a challenging and inspiring time for me as a member of the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) community. I have a lot of segmented thoughts and feelings floating around in my head, things that would probably make a better post when they are more formed and can really carry a shape of their own. Perhaps it is helpful to talk about that. Processing is something we all experience. Bear with me as I sort some of my thoughts here.
I’ll start by talking about the public speaking. Every time I prepare for a talk I deal with nervousness and anxiety. For some reason, I still expect that my talk will fall on ears that don’t want to hear it, that there might be a lack of compassion on the other end. I fear that my experience isn’t engaging enough. I forget that I have a familiarity with it, and a comfort with it that no one else has. There are times I don’t recognize the strength and power of what I’ve gone through. Yet each time I get the guts to go out and speak I am surprised by my audience.
When I spoke to a continuing care class, they were eager to learn about my experience, and to hear examples of ongoing challenges faced by peers. They were very aware that they could be meeting people in our community that need help because their health has placed limitations on them. They showed vast amounts of caring and compassion. They were thrilled to learn about YACC and know that they could spread the word with colleagues in their field, and have it as a resource should they meet people that would benefit from the programs available.
Speaking at the high school, I got a mix of students that had genuine interest and some that were told they had to be there. Oddly, it was the kids that were told they had to be there that became the most engaged. They seemed less afraid to ask questions about my fear of recurrence and struggles with the darker feelings I experienced. I came out of that day feeling like I left the students with a lot of food for thought, and reminded of how far I’ve come since my own time in high school. There are times that I feel I haven’t changed all that much, but being in that environment proves otherwise.
As a member of the YACC community, this month has been a doozy. We said goodbye to too many people. One is too many. It happens and is not unexpected, but this month seemed like a test of strength. As a community we passed with flying freaking colors. There were stories of remembrance, carrying forward the lessons and inspirations we’ve learned from our dearly departed friends, songs, shared mourning, and grief. We also saw the unveiling of a support program aimed to help us through these difficult times.
Personally, it was the first time I’ve said goodbye to a friend. She was a beautiful soul, a firecracker, and one tough cookie. She was an advocate, ally, and inspiration. I found out through social media while casually scrolling through my news feed. I was unprepared, and surprised. It hit me hard. We hadn’t been in touch, and I hadn’t known about the status of her health. I felt guilty for not knowing how she’d been doing, for not being in touch. I was sad because I missed the Survivor Conference this year, and she was there (this made me feel selfish). I was happy to know that she was free of this illness. I was a myriad of emotions coming and going in waves.
I was down, but it wasn’t long before I started to feel uplifted. I got a lot of support and expressions of love from family and friends. It was a fine example of not hiding why you are sad and getting the support you need.
It was only moments before I began experiencing how this community can cope, and find strength and healing together through times of sadness. Sharing our stories and inspirations really helped me see how we keep the memory of a person alive with us. Sharing our grief made the burden easier to bear. There is strength to be found in adversity.
In other news, I know two different people that participated in Shave For The Brave this month. One is a fellow YACCer doing great work, and carrying forward her passion for this community. The other is a mother, a student, and a friend of mine. She’s been following this blog and wanted to contribute to the community. I am so thankful for their work, and know that the money they raised will do wonderful things.
It’s been a big month. I’m still processing it all. I wish I had a more concise message, but I trust that this post wasn’t for naught. Thank you for following along.