At our monthly team meetings, one of our crew members discusses some of our five values: strength, courage, commitment, heart, and spark. This is Dani’s reflection from this month’s meeting.
Just over four years ago, I first connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC). It was a desperate time. I was 25-years-old and I had just finished treatment for stage 3 colorectal cancer. I had expected life to go back to normal after my final surgery, but the anxiety of no longer taking an active role against my disease was way more than I had anticipated. I felt hopeless and lost at a time I had expected to feel just the opposite, so I googled “young adult cancer” while crying in a Second Cup.
Within a few weeks, I attended my first Retreat Yourself. It was a total revelation. By that time, I was almost two years from my initial diagnosis, and this was my first time meeting other young people that had been there, too. It revealed to me that I was not a failure for feeling how I felt, and I was reacting how most people would in a scary situation in a system not made for them. That retreat changed my life.
My path completely changed after that. I changed all my coursework to reflect my more critical understanding of illness and healthcare. I finished my English degree, winning a national award for an essay on the language of cancer. I immediately turned around and returned to school for Social Work, focusing again on cancer and its culture. I volunteered rigorously and quickly found a job at a local cancer-supportive non-profit, all while growing and changing my relationship to YACC, collaborating with them as a speaker, performer, writer, facilitator, organizer, and — as of this month — a member of their staff.
I do not find this path without YACC. Not with this speed and success. Not with this passion. I am so full of gratitude to come full circle with this organization and to be an interrupting force for other young adults struggling with their cancer diagnoses.
I’m ready to give back.
[Editor’s note: And we’re so happy to have you on our team, Dani! You can reach Dani at [email protected].]
Dani and program director Karine Chalifour during Retreat Yourself Adventure.