I had the opportunity to attend Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Retreat Yourself in Abbotsford, BC from August 10-14. I’m trying to process that experience and what I want to say here, but words are so lacking for something so profound and beautiful. Each and every person there took a piece of my heart, and I am so grateful to have shared that space with them. Those connections, even after only four days, mean the world to me. But the biggest thing was getting myself back.
I’ve been struggling. I got really sick after radiation and my immune system has been shut down and not able to allow my body to recover. I wasn’t talking about it, except with those who have stayed close to me. I’ve been stuck in my house for about four months now. The last month and a half I have had to take a sick leave from work. During that time, I’ve been living on my couch, alone, isolated, in pain, more depressed than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ve had four visitors in all that time.
I could barely find the strength to feed myself, a good day was eating two meals instead of one, and maybe showering. I lost 30lbs in that time, and when I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself. It got bad. Worse than I realized. I’m pretty good at laughing most things off, but to borrow a line from my friend Spencer, it wasn’t funny anymore.
Somehow, last Wednesday I made it out of my house, on the ferry, and was picked up by my beautiful soul sister, Natasha. Since that moment I began healing. The next day I made it on the bus to the retreat, and began to feel that I was going to be ok. I got to be cared for and surrounded by people who get it. I didn’t have to worry about groceries or cooking or dishes, and I managed to gain 5lbs over the weekend. I got outside for the first time this summer and got in a pool and sat in the sunshine. I was even able to do yoga on the last day. Long way from the couch, just a few days before that!
I’m feeling a lot better, and healing is finally happening. When I got home yesterday I was able to do three weeks’ worth of dishes, change my sheets, and get my recycling to the curb. None of which I was capable of doing even a week ago. What became so very clear to me at the retreat was that I am really bad at letting people help me. I’m going to let people help me now. I need to let people show up. I need to get out of the house, although I still need to take it easy.
Cancer is hard, but it’s really hard when you’re single and live alone. Retreat Yourself helped me realize I can do it, and that I now have a national network that has my back when I need it.
What has happened since the retreat with the group has been really beautiful. Karine started a Facebook group just for our retreat, and everybody immediately engaged and have stayed active with posts and responses there. One of our group members is having surgery today, and almost everyone in the group shared messages of love and support for her. We all get to come together again to be there for each other, through this group where it’s just us. Even though I’m sitting in my house alone today, I haven’t felt alone in this through those connections, and the others who got in touch with me after I shared what I was going through publicly through my Facebook profile.
The other beautiful thing is seeing others in the group share openly about their struggles and what they need, and seeing the support happening for them from their posts. Some of them have told me that I inspired them to share through my getting vulnerable and sharing what I did. I was only able to do that with borrowed strength from the group, and knowing they and YACC have my back. It fills my heart to know that I could inspire support and healing for others.