Why My Cancer Friends Are My Salvation
When I wake up in the morning and see my short, curly hair, I’m reminded of cancer. When I see my naked body in the mirror with my scars, I’m reminded. When I take my daily medication, I’m reminded. When I go for my monthly injections, I’m reminded. When I look at my children, I’m reminded. How could I possibly forget that I had cancer? How can any of us?
When I was first diagnosed with early stage triple positive breast cancer in July 2017, I was both terrified and determined. I initially did not want to reach out to others with cancer. I decided to focus on going through treatment and getting better. However, eventually I found myself wanting to reach out to other women who were going through the same thing as me. I found many online groups, most of which weren’t helpful at all. Some of them kept linking to sketchy YouTube videos and pseudo-science articles. It was enraging. One of them shamed me for venting about feeling misunderstood by some of my support system. The women told me that so many people go through cancer alone and how dare I be ungrateful? I left the group, angry and alone again.
Then, I posted something randomly on a mom group about our wonderful local pharmacy. Another mom in that group, Heidi, reached out to me after reading that post and invited me to join a group of young women with all stages of breast cancer, called OMG (Ottawa Monthly Gatherings). I met her for coffee just to chat and she asked me to come an upcoming meeting.
In February 2018, I went to my first OMG and it was life changing. Finally, I felt understood. I’ve been going to as many monthly meetings as possible. It’s a truly amazing group and they’ve welcomed me in like family. My first meeting was “Tapping”. I didn’t know anything about it, but we ended up talking about our deepest fears and then “tapping” and different points on the face and body. I’ve never cried so much with complete strangers or let myself be so vulnerable. Instead of feeling embarrassed, for the first time since I was diagnosed, I felt heard.
People often wonder why we all hang out together. “Isn’t it a constant reminder of cancer? You all need to move on from cancer.” This is something that I have heard and that other members have heard from not just friends and family, but from medical professionals. But they don’t get it. There is no moving on from cancer. It never leaves you. We’re just living life as we can.
These women are not reminding me I had cancer. They are my salvation, my sanity, my sisters. Today, as we attended the funeral and celebration of life of one of our beloved OMG members, Dani, the sentiment really hits home. They’ve been through hell and many are still living that hell, yet they are still kind, compassionate, generous and funny as hell. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’ve been thinking about joining in on a gathering with us but feel too intimidated, don’t worry, I’ve been there. Please know that we’re a diverse group and will welcome you with open arms. Feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll be your safety net.
Are you a young woman with breast cancer looking to connect with others? Join the Rethink community here.