This past weekend, I had the honour and absolute privilege to attend my second retreat with Young Adult Cancer Canada (a.k.a. YACC), an incredible organization committed to supporting and advocating for young adults who have direct experiences with cancer. As a peer supporter, I had the opportunity to share my story with 30 awe-inspiring human beings. Standing at the front of the room I felt vulnerable and exposed, yet through the process of sharing I felt heard and validated and was again reminded that I am not alone.
In crafting my story, I chose to highlight 10 insights that I have realized through my cancer experience. It is important to note that these insights may or may not not resonate with everyone, however, these insights reflect some of my cancer journey to date. It is with this understanding that I share these insights with you. I hope you enjoy!
Cheryl’s Cancer Insights:
- I am not my cancer, nor am I simply a patient. I am a human being first and foremost. Please treat me this way. I will forever be grateful to my oncologist; when he and I first met, he entered the room and said: “tell me about yourself, not about cancer, but who you are.”
- I have an important voice in my cancer experience and I continuously need to advocate for this. I cannot expect others to make the best decision on my behalf, nor should others expect that they know what is best for me.
- I didn’t do, or not do, anything to get cancer. It happened. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter anymore; it is here! Holding myself responsible or feeling guilty only makes things worse.
- For me, cancer isn’t a war, a fight, or a battle; cancer resides within me. I’ve witnessed the devastation and destruction of war and I don’t want to do that to myself. I also don’t want to fight with myself any longer! There must be an alternative!
- Being single with cancer can be lonely, and being young doubly so. Young adults need to connect with other young adults and organizations like YACC are critical to help “normalize” our experiences; being young with cancer is different!
- Cancer has given me permission to say no, ask for what I need, and set healthier boundaries for myself (mostly).
- Cancer has rescripted my identity and has given me permission to say yes to the life that I want to lead rather than the life others intended for me. I am fueling my passions and learning to fly!
- I struggle with the guilt of being alive and frequently wonder why I am here while others have died. It just isn’t fair! I feel the pressure to live each moment to the fullest and this is hardest when I don’t feel my best.
- My journey with cancer isn’t over, nor is it finished when treatment is complete. I will live with cancer my entire life, and I will continue to seek and navigate a new “normal”. In many ways, my journey is just beginning.
- I am fearful about the future and what lies ahead. I have so much life left to live and the future is always unknown. As such, I am walking forward in fear with my head high and my heart wide open.
Thank you for reading and witnessing my journey! My heart is full with love!