It’s one of those things, you don’t “get it” until you get it.
I was 19 when my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma skin cancer, and I was a month shy of my 23rd birthday when I lost him.
I don’t need to explain to anyone in the AYA community who has been affected by cancer, whether a current patient, survivor, or fellow caretaker, the shitshow that ensues when cancer enters your life and forces you to be on the frontlines of a battle you never signed up for.
But man, losing my dad was like losing myself. And I had no idea that losing him was just the start of the aforementioned shitshow. It took me years to come to terms with what had happened so that I could start the healing process. Looking back, it took me so long because of the isolation I felt. There were no guidebooks or toolkits, no “how to deal with losing a parent to cancer 101” courses. No one I knew “got it”, and so I thought the best course of action was to suppress it, as if I didn’t either.
Throughout the last nine years, I’ve serendipitously found a handful of people in this world who, unfortunately, “get it”. All of these people have played wildly different roles in my life but the one common denominator is that once we knew we had this in common, we became instant friends and pillars of support for one another, no further questions asked or answers needed. This taste of community gave me the confidence I needed to face the music, and take back my power from the cancer that took my dad.
Just a few weeks ago, I went to Stupid Cancer’s first storytelling event and broke out in happy tears feeling that same connected energy in the room. A group of individuals who walked in alone left with a new army of supporters who understood them, who got them. No questions asked.
This is why I also broke out in happy tears (I cry a lot, it’s fine) when I had the opportunity to join the Stupid Cancer team just a few weeks ago. This is an organization founded under the mores that within the support of a community, we can. We can heal, we can find friends, we can thrive.
Part of my onboarding process at Stupid Cancer has been picking a quote that resonates with me for my business cards. I chose “Together we can!” because in the last nine years I’ve learned that when we come together under the pretense of love and support, there is nothing we cannot achieve together. Even getting through this. Whatever “this” means to you.
And while you never want other people to have to “get it”, it sure is nice when you find a community of supporters who do, and who get you.
I have the privilege of being the Director of Development at Stupid Cancer, and if I can in any way shape or form be someone who “gets it” with you.
By Linda Curran