Thursday, May 5, 2011

#99: Build Your Community

Last weekend I attended a Young Adults with Cancer retreat, organized by the dedicated and passionate team at Young Adult Cancer Canada. The retreat was held in beautiful - and sunny! - Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, and it was well worth the trek to the an area of Canada I have never ventured to.

Throughout the weekend, twelve other young adult survivors and I shared, connected and learned. Listening to other people's stories can give you a lot of perspective on your journey, and help you to discover some meaning in your own strife.

The most valuable lesson I took from last weekend, however, was the value of community. Young Adult Cancer Canada's mission statement is "to build a community of young adults diagnosed with cancer that provides information, support, skills and opportunity." I have to admit, that's exactly what this weekend achieved. Isolation is a huge part of the cancer diagnosis process, and building a community of similarly-minded people can help if you're feeling alone and misunderstood, as I often did.

Community is individualized, and it is our individual responsibility to develop for ourselves, especially in the wake of new life circumstances. Since my diagnosis, I learned how essential it is to your survival to meet, share and communicate with like-minded people. Whether it's through interests, activities, work, life circumstance or random chance, building a support community reminds us that what we are never alone.

Though we may not all keep in touch, their stories touched me in an everlasting, unforgettable way. I know I'll carry each of them in my thoughts everyday, especially on the bad days, and I hope that it will remind me in my darkest moments that I'm never, ever, alone.

I'm part of an army of young adult survivors ready to take arms in my defence at any moment.

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