A young cancer survivor explains the importance of creating connections with others who have been through the same experiences.
I came to terms a while back that my path in life had changed after cancer. But it took much longer to acknowledge just how much I, as a person, have also changed.
These days, among the aftermath, my lifestyle is much more rigid and conservative due to trauma and the understanding of what’s at stake if I don’t properly care for my body. And while treatment itself was brutal, for the lucky ones blessed to resume a life after cancer, most will find it’s still pretty damn strenuous. On the surface level, there’s the damage to our careers, bodies and emotions, but there’s also a nagging, constant drain of everything feeling just a little bit harder.
We need support. A lot of support, extending well after treatment. And in addition to my amazing friends and family (whom I legit don’t think I’d be here without), this year, I realized I needed to branch out and meet more people like me — who are actively figuring out this crazy game of life after cancer.
Not to say this was a new concept; I’d dabbled with social media and connecting with a few people at the hospital. But it’s been a real challenge meeting cancer fighters around my age — I was treated next to infants and teens on the hospital’s pediatrics floor, and most people I’ve met or have been introduced to since are older.
So, this year I forced myself to make something happen. I asked around and signed up for some online meetup groups.
At first, yes, definitely awkward… Not everyone was the right fit. But I kept reminding myself that all it took was one match to build off of. Eventually, I started clicking with people. Then, in just a few minutes of swapping stories and talking through challenges, I could already feel the sweet satisfaction of having linked up with my tribe.
It’s brought me a lot of inner peace and I highly recommend making the effort. If you’re a cancer fighter with a new world unraveling before you, don’t underestimate the need for people in your life with firsthand experience (and who you get along with). You don’t have to build your network right away— you may not be ready yet, and we can only take on so much at a time.
Just keep it in mind for when you start to notice that need for a little camaraderie. During your rebuild in life after cancer, this can be your foundation.
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