If I had my wish (and curing cancer wasn’t an option), I’d wish every cancer survivor was surrounded by an unbroken circle of support from the moment their cancer experience began. If we’re lucky, we have family and friends, but we learn fast that they are only able to understand so much. What we also need are others who get the struggle, understand the secret code and live in the silences with us. What we crave are compatriots who speak our new language.
What I didn’t know before Tuesday night is that April is Young Adults with Cancer Awareness Month. I learned that while attending a film screening of “Wrong Way to Hope.” Set on the Owyhee River in Oregon, a group of young adult cancer survivors from Canada takes on a grueling, nine day kayaking expedition. Together they battle the river and their fears, and delve into emotions only cancer can elicit.
As they discuss themes of isolation, fear and uncertainty, relationships, silence, identity, and “reintrajectorization”—a term I still can’t pronounce which means re-entering life after cancer treatment – there is pain, but also immense growth. Talking about their demons and sharing laughter, the group moves toward acceptance and the realization that you can “choose your own adventure.” As Mike Lang, cancer survivor and leader of the group states, “Stuff happens to you, you know, that you can’t control, but you can choose where you go from there.”
Young adults dealing with cancer certainly have their own perspective and struggles, but they had much more in common with an older person like me than they think. The experience of cancer is universal, be it breast, colon, esophageal or pancreatic, be the survivor young or old. Make sure you keep reaching out to others who speak your language. It’s good for your soul.
Survival > Existence,
Image courtesy of iampeas