Tonight was my first meeting with the Early Stage Breast Cancer group. It felt like the first day at school walking in, rather appropriate for this time of year. It was a little nerve-wracking not knowing what to expect. I made sure I put on my water-proof mascara in case it turned out to be a sob-fest, and I chose a chair next to the tissue box.
I should have known better. I was in a room full of survivors.
Let me tell you a little bit about survivors. They are amazing. They are strong. Those are the things we already know. But let me tell you more. They smile and laugh a heck of a lot. They are supportive. They are comfortable with who they are because an experience like breast cancer puts life in perspective for you. It strips away your ability to mire too much in nonsense, and just cut to what's real and what matters. They are honest and open. They want to help others because they know what it is like to feel you are the only one who has ever gone through the nonsense. They build you up because they have walked that path. You believe them when they tell you that it will be ok because they know better than anyone else. They are proof. And when you put a bunch of them together in one room the feeling is electric, invigorating. It makes you feel like you can conquer the world.
So, I did not cry tonight. I laughed. I shared. I listened. I smiled. I learned that I am not the only person who craved pork fried rice during treatment. I felt good about the choices I have made regarding my treatment, and the person that I am becoming as a result of my cancer. And I sang really loud on my drive home with my hat off and my window open, just feeling very much alive.
There is something so comforting about talking to people who are in various stages beyond you on the journey. It's like looking into a crystal ball, and seeing what your life might be like in the future, realizing it's a happy place to be. Envisioning yourself in various stages of hair growth, in various stages of being emotionally "past" cancer. It's a glimpse of what is coming and it really is overflowing with hope. Oh how I love my journeys to Hope Road.
So to anyone with a cancer diagnosis, please find yourself some support from others who have walked in your shoes. They can provide a different level of support than the rest of your world can because they really truly know because they have been there. There are many organizations to choose from: the Cancer Support Community, Gilda's club come to mind. Trust me, you will not regret it!