Words failed me.
The elevator doors had closed but I found that I could not make the words come out. Sobbing uncontrollably and silently and trying to speak at the same time I squeaked out the word 7.
A fellow conference goer who I could identify only by the familiar lanyard around her neck moved to hug me, without shame or condemnation. As she hugged me she said, “That’s how you know it was a good weekend”. She was right.
We were at CancerCon, where some of the conventions of the real world had been entirely flipped on their head. Crying into the arms of a stranger WAS the sign of a good weekend. A sign that some unseen healing had taken place. A sign that no one who attended CancerCon was really a stranger to one another, as the collective history of our cancer experiences bridged the gap of social mores. Prior to stepping onto the elevator, I had just spoken with a fellow survivor–a doctor who assured me that what I was trying to do was indeed hard, but that it was okay. That it was okay to continue to try hard things in the real world even with a cancer diagnosis. The affirmation, the offer of a sounding board, the honesty and the kinship hit an unseen weight, and the tears began to fall.
As the tears fell, so did the weight. As had been reiterated over and over again in this whirlwind of a weekend: I was not alone, I was not alone, I was not alone. I had not been alone in the talks on survivorship, or during the laughs over familiar treatment symptoms. I had not been alone when I danced the night away as my treatment-achy hips whined in complaint. I was not alone as I scribbled furious notes about the power of mindset, or when I thought F you cancer, F you for your unceremonious shaking of my life. I was not alone as I chatted within the CancerCon community about hopeful cancer trips, and the temerous difficulty and joys of navigating this post cancer life.
As Nat King Cole sang, “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”. This weekend was a powerful reminder of that truth. To share hope and love and purpose with so many other people is healing in and of itself. So to the weight of cancer, I speak my intention: that I replace you. I replace you with the love of my fellow survivors, my fellow community, the love of myself.
By : Jessica Owaka