The need to break isolation for young adults affected by cancer
By Gabrielle Fecteau
The isolation felt over the last year in relation to the world-wide pandemic is not a new experience for me. Cancer had, in many ways, provided me with a similar experience of loneliness.
As a young adult affected by cancer, I have been isolated from my peers physically due to my compromised immune system and my need for more stable supports during treatments. I have also been isolated socially — having faced such a life-threatening perspective-shifting illness put some distance between myself and others.
As the pandemic began forcing the world into quarantine, I dreaded what it would mean in my life. The isolation was going to be challenging, mentally, socially and physically, but to what degree?
A few weeks into quarantine, YACC provided me with the opportunity to join a new team of leaders to offer weekly peer-led chats. The connection it offered seemed perfect to curve the isolation I felt, and so I accepted with enthusiasm.
The YACC Web: Chats have been held weekly for over a year now. The program was designed as a pilot to help YACCers connect during quarantine.
I think it is now safe to say that it has become a program able to the break isolation felt by young adults affected by cancer, beyond quarantine. In these chats, many other young adults living in isolation (myself included) are provided a space to connect with like-minded individuals — people who simply get it.
Lately, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what these chats have meant to me: Safety. Connection. Learning.
There are few spaces where one can share wholeheartedly. Honest conversations with others, and with ourselves, simply seem so rare in this world.
It is with this in mind that I come to experience these safe spaces created to allow me to show up as my true self. They mean so much. Showing up for myself, as I am able to within these peer-led chats, provides me with the opportunity to:
(1) Build a life that allows for growth.
(2) Show up as I am.
(3) Take from the shared space what I need.
Like me, many hold this safe space in a way that helps them cope with life as a young adult affected by cancer and give back to their community.
Connection has been the most effective form of “treatment” in helping me cope with my cancer experience. It has been a theme in my life for quite a few years, but continues to show up in the most unexpected (yet powerful) ways.
The weekly peer-led chats that I get to be a part of continue to highlight the importance of connection in human life. Though these chats, I have had the opportunity to:
- Listen to the real-life experiences of others sharing in similar situations as me;
- Break some of the isolation I have felt in my life, and;
- Build support systems and deeper connections with some pretty incredible people — myself included.
The meaningful conversations that I have had in the past months through the chats I have led have helped me grow as a person.
I have learned so much about myself. But, more importantly, I have learned from others.
Here are some of my learnings (which I hope will entice you to join the conversation):
(1) Share from your heart, and listen from your heart, too. The conversations held that come from the heart are always meaningful and impactful.
(2) There is still so much to learn. Things about yourself and others. Honest and raw conversations, like the ones we have allow us the opportunity to do some much-needed learning.
(3) Conversations always happen to be the ones we needed when we trust the process and each other.
(4) Holding space to reflect on our experiences allows for growth. It is very important to show up for ourselves and others this honestly.