The seasons are changing, and so am I. This September marks my daughter’s foray into kindergarten – and I am going back to school too! I will be pursuing my Diploma in Acupuncture, a long-time dream of mine. After spending 7 years at Rethink Breast Cancer, and with my departure coinciding with our office’s move to The East Room … it’s really feeling like the end of an Era.

Transitions are necessary, exhilarating and so incredibly difficult – completely shaking up our entire identity. I’ve been here before – on the precipice of a major leap, trusting that the net will appear – but it’s scary just the same. In the commotion of all that is happening right now, I am squeezing in some necessary time for reflection so that all the feels don’t get too big and unwieldy.

I will always admire Rethink’s ability to “rethink the status quo” and evolve quickly, as our world demands. Seven years has given me a perspective through a fascinating evolution. I started working here on my mother’s birthday, just as she was finishing her own active treatment for breast cancer. Rethink was kicking off a strong series of national support programs: Breast Fest Film Festival, Technology in Treatment, Support Saturdays, Live Laugh Learn – so many opportunities to grow and interact with the young women we serve.

One of the most incredible things I have witnessed over my years at Rethink is the way in which so many women living with breast cancer commit themselves to giving back to the community.

They are so changed by their experience that they find creative ways to share their stories and bring newly diagnosed women into the fold to be supported. They write memoirs & kids books, create resources, make art, ARE art. They share their intimate stories in films, blogs, discussion panels. They host local gatherings & fundraisers, advocate, translate resources. They make jewellery and fold paper cranes as concrete symbols of hope. They use their passions to support their community in the most impactful ways we could ever dream of. One particularly special woman created Stretch Heal Grow – an annual yoga & wellness retreat bringing young women together to initiate them into focusing on their own healing post-treatment. I’ve written a couple iterations of this paragraph listing the specific women that have impacted me most, but it was just too long.

There are literally SO MANY WOMEN that have inspired and humbled me over the years – transmuting fearful experiences into opportunities for growth. I have learned from them what it means to advocate and be a beacon for those looking to do the same so that we can amplify our voices to create the change we want to see.

When I returned from my maternity leave in 2014, Rethink was morphing into a Global Digital Hub. My new role had me meeting even more phenomenal people: our volunteers, committees, board, R3 advisory, ambassadors, fundraisers – so many RETHINKERS that I am so grateful to have crossed paths with.

I have worked with the most vibrant and magnificent staff through these years, in a modern workplace that truly encourages mental health and work-life balance. They have been incredible models of ambition and focus and camaraderie. What a gift that is, in this world. We should all be so lucky to work in such supportive environments.

I think I really learned how to grieve at Rethink. When I started working here, I wasn’t quite prepared for was how bonded to the community I would become, and the frequency at which loss happens within it. I have seen families grow, diagnoses change and then change again. I have celebrated miracles and lost dear friends to metastatic disease – too many, and too often.

There is nothing comfortable about cancer. When huge loss is experienced life is never the same again – it doesn’t go back to “normal”. But in heartbreak we have choices – to reject or to accept, to close or to open. The light starts to work its way back in if we can create space: To remember and mourn what we are letting go of, to share our story, to reconnect with life in a new way. My proudest and fondest moments at Rethink will forever be participating in the holding of these spaces. Emotions are signals about our needs, and if we listen they tell the story of what is truly most important to us.

This is what inspires people to create and give back. This is how I’ve seen people learn to heal. No one can do this work for us – but those who have walked before can use their creativity and compassion to pave the way for those that are to come.

I have always gravitated towards projects that explore what it means to heal. My work at Rethink has kept the cycles of living and dying in my constant sight, and inspired me to help more people find their healing spirit. This next step for me is terrifying – parting ways with this strong, cozy community that we have co-created – but I am so thrilled to dive into my next chapter. I have the utmost gratitude for all that I have learned in my time here, and those that have brought me those teachings. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and inspiration. It has been a beautiful whirlwind.

-jen