Cancer didn’t make me stronger; it sapped my strength like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
You know what made me stronger? Having to make tough decisions and stand by them. Calling bullshit on bullshit. Moving forward despite the fear. Getting up every single day to be a mommy to my little girl, no matter how crappy I felt. Showing up for every treatment, even when I wanted to hide under the covers. Being a part of a support network for other young women with breast cancer.
We don’t get through this alone; we are all so interconnected. There is strength in numbers, in solidarity, in community. We take turns having bad days, and on our better days we lend our strength to others. There is strength in knowing I am not alone. Others have traveled the road before me, and my experience will provide strength to those who come behind me.
There is strength in helping others, in standing up and fighting for a cause. There is strength in giving back, and paying it forward. There is strength in understanding, and being understood. And there is a great deal of strength in our collective knowledge of how to survive and thrive despite this nasty and devastating disease.
This is why I am so passionately supportive of my support network for young women with breast cancer, the Young Survival Coalition.
A week ago, YSC Seattle held it’s annual fundraising event. Instead of the usual party and auction, this year we held an athletic event. Tour de Pink indoor was our first cycling fundraiser, and it had a completely different kind of energy than the party. We packed the room with spin cycles, great music, and awesome people. Perhaps it wasn’t the same fun as partying, but there was collective energy of focus and determination that was quite different from what happens on the dance floor.
Energy builds on energy, focus encourages focus, and it’s hard to give up in a room packed with that much determination.
We raised $11,000.
Up next is a bigger, outdoor ride. Tour de Pink West Coast is a 200 mile ride from Thousand Oaks to Foothill Ranch, CA, to benefit YSC across the nation, and it’s less than two weeks away. I won’t be riding along, but I will be with them in spirit, you can, too.
We spent the evening walking down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, The Big Easy. It’s Friday night, and I’m told much tamer than the partying a few nights earlier on Fat Tuesday.
My friends and I stand at the corner waiting for the light to change so we can cross the street, while revelers around us brazenly jaywalk – behavior that seems foreign to this group of girls from Seattle.
We stop for drinks at Howl At the Moon, and when they are delivered in 36 ounce plastic cups, the server explains that the 3 for one special means everyone is automatically upgraded to a triple, and the cups are plastic so we can take them out in the street.
We look outside: Everyone does carry their drinks with them in the street.
Don’t worry, we adjusted. It wasn’t long before we were jaywalking while carrying open containers. Talk about multitasking.
Beads hang from balconies, street lights, stop signs, trees, public art, and anything else that will sit still long enough to be draped with the twinkling strands in all colors of bling.
A sprinkling of rain and a sturdy breeze lends more sparkle and movement to a street that is already teeming with life; humans, pigeons, palm trees, flowers, moss, mules, dogs can all be seen in a single glance.
The next block we walk through is closed to traffic, and pedestrians fill the area between the buildings as they laugh, dance, and wander amongst the street performers and live music wafting from the insides of bars and restaurants, music so rich and textured it seems to hold a physical presence in the space as well.
Bright lights and dark corners, high contrast colors, bricks and stucco, trolleys and mule drawn carriages, trees and bling,
and ornate balconies populated with blow up dolls
conspire to create an environment that is, to me, both fun and foreign.
The second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is quickly approaching. Of course it has me thinking. A lot. Not all the thoughts are happy thoughts, but that just comes with the territory.
But some of those thoughts are happy thoughts. Warm, fuzzy, happy thoughts. Like the girls I met because I have cancer.
These are women I would have been proud to count among my friends even before diagnosis, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would have met any of them outside of cancer.
This weekend a group of us traveled to New Orleans to a conference for young women with breast cancer. We learned about treatment protocols, late effects of treatment, nutrition, dealing with the impact of cancer treatment in the bedroom, and myriad other topics, and we got to spend time with other women whose lives have been similarly impacted.
Good times, good music, good food, good company…
I think the people with whom we surround ourselves have a huge influence on our happiness. Sure, we all have those people around whom we have to tiptoe and walk on eggshells, but we can dilute their influence with so many more amazing people, people who lift us up and love us for who we really are. I’m so blessed to have such amazing friends – that they understand what I’m going through with cancer because they’ve been there too just makes it that much better.
I’m a very lucky woman.
Of course I still worry about how many years I have left, but even more important than the number of trips you make around the sun is your traveling companions along the way.
Well, for starters, you end up with some fun pictures…
But more importantly, this event raised money for some pretty awesome organizations.
Get Hitched Give Hope brings together wedding related vendors from around the region, allowing the wedding party to meet the vendors, bid on wedding products and services, and plan their weddings while raising money for a great cause.
Food, wine, flowers, rhinestones, and feathers…
Vendors were there to show off the best of what they have to offer
And the Young Survival Coalition (an organization which has been of immense help to me in my cancer battle) was one of the beneficiaries, along with The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to adults in the last year of their battle with life threatening diseases.
Such an amazing event. And thanks to all these events in October, we’ve got a good jump on hitting our budget for next year. But I’ve got to admit, I’m thankful that October is over; I’m exhausted, and ready for a two week nap.
Also, I think I’m going to try to get one of those photo booths for all my events in the future. That was fun!