By Blair Richardson
Hey everyone! It’s your friendly neighbourhood YACCtivist, Blair! YACC recently had its first ever virtual Survivor Conference, and it was amazing. I had the opportunity to connect with many new people and make some great friendships all from the comfort of my own room! These connections really got me thinking about my time in the YA cancer community and how much it means to me.
I joined YACC at a very desperate time in my life. In 2016, before I was diagnosed with cancer, I would have said I had a great group of friends from university and work that would support each other when we needed it. Unfortunately the day I heard the dreaded words, “You have cancer,” all of those friendships disappeared. I had many texts from people saying that they would be there to support me and then I never heard from them again.
This unfortunately happens to many young adults after they are diagnosed. After my friends disappeared the only personal support I had left (besides my incredible family) was the girl I had been dating before my diagnosis. She was a great support to me during my bone marrow transplant, my short eight month remission, and then my cancer relapsing. Her friends became my friends, and I felt like I had some meaningful friendships again.
Then, a month before the one year anniversary of my relapse, my girlfriend suddenly broke up with me and those friendships I had went with her. I was alone again.
However, two weeks later after knowing about YACC for over a year, I made the best decision of my life and went to my first Localife activity. At the event I met people who I could truly talk to and did not have to hold anything back. The survivors that I met at that event, and the many others that I have met since, have changed my life in two major ways.
The first is supporting me when times are dark, whether it’s cancer related or not. All cancers and treatments are different, but us cancer patients can still relate to each other in so many ways. When I am feeling down I know I can reach out to the friends I have made in the community for support and that they won’t avoid me because I need to express some big negative emotions.
A recent example is I had to start chemotherapy the day after the virtual conference ended. I had attended some amazing workshops, made many new friends, and had felt so good all weekend, but knowing that reality was coming back in just a few hours made me very upset. I expressed these negative feelings to my friends, some of whom I had only known for a couple hours, and they all rallied around me, told me my feelings are valid, and asked if there was anything they could do to help. The next day I received good luck messages from everyone and it meant so much to me. They make me feel like I am a part of a family that will support me through thick and thin.
The other way the YA community has supported me is by bringing in so much positivity into my life. After every formal YACC event, or even after a short video chat with some YACCers, I feel a huge wave of positivity and happiness flow over me. The community does such an amazing job at building each other up and celebrating even the smallest accomplishments. That wave of positivity is addicting and I look forward to every YA event I attend.
I honestly think that one of the reasons I am alive today and have beaten the odds of my cancer diagnosis is because of my YACC family. I am a huge believer in mental health and how it can affect your physical health. The positivity of my YACC family has driven me to be happy and to live every day to its fullest, and I love them all so much!
To wrap this blog up I asked some of my fellow YACCers to write a poem on what their connections with other YA survivors means to them. Here they are:
“Cancer brings balls of shit
A heavy solo challenge
Friends help lift the weight”
“A cancer diagnosis can make you feel alone.
But finding your YACC family feels like coming home”
Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you’re in the YACC family and we haven’t crossed paths yet, I cannot wait until we do!