Thursday, November 1, 2007

Approaching foreign territory

Have you ever thought about your approach to something?
Come again?
approach: the Oxford American Dictionary, for instance, defines the word for this context as...
a method of doing or tackling something.

I will say that everyone has a different approach toward life challenges. Take for instance, cancer. Never had I seen this illustrated so well until tonight. I sat watching Crazy Sexy Cancer with some Gilda's Club members. I am the minority, the young adult in this group.

For those of you who don't know Kris Carr's amazing documentary is unmistakably young, fresh and reminiscent of the youthful approach to cancer. She is funny, bold, irreverant and she profiles other young women who are of a like mindset. Sometimes they swear. A few times they say things like @*%* cancer. These women are honest and sometimes they sound more like comediennes in their smackdown of the big C. Hello tumor humor. Kris Carr speaks for young women and young adults in general because she understands a common ethos, part of how many of us who are young deal with cancer.

I realized as I heard a few nervous twitters and a few gasps that some of the women around me were taken aback. Generationally, cancer is different. In the twenty or thirty year age gap between where I sit and where they sit... it's different. This approach, this attitude and this kind of fresh look at cancer seems revolutionary to some of them. I guess I should step back and say hey, wow, you know, it is revolutionary. It's how many young adults face their fight, with fervor and with gusto. Yet it's new and it's groundbreaking- somehow foreign to our parents' generation. They grew up in an age where cancer was taboo, ugly and something to be whispered about. Now suddenly it's not. New pathways. New thinking. New approaches to cancer.

As the movie played on and they watched a little more you could see them warming to it. Those in that room who were conservative or conditioned to be unassuming and polite seemed to be seeing a different light. Before I knew it they were saying "Wow" out loud and in the right places laughing robustly. Were they slowly seeing how this youthful approach was liberating? Did they see it's okay to be a little brazen, a little silly and a little rebellious? Did they see that we don't have to treat cancer with kid gloves...or conservatively or with reservation? Perhaps so...I really believe that Crazy, Sexy, Cancer was saying more to them than they expected. Maybe in some small way they went home a little different.

Young adults are not the minority in other areas of life. The bars, the coffee shops, the corporate world... these places are just teaming with us young adults. But in cancer we are the minority. Overall cancer activities weren't really designed with us in mind. Most of us haven't learned to play kinasta or crochet afghans so we passed over the fliers about some of the social hours, the get-together, the opportunity for cancer bonding. To find our peers we had to deal with our cancer and find our survival companions over the internet.

No question: in this cancer journey we are the minority. Yet, watching Kris Carr last night perhaps these older survivors finally understood. Our voices, our journeys are not to be ignored. We may be the minority but it is the resonant voice of the young adult that is really speaking to everyone: our approaches toward cancer might become theirs as well. It is quite possible that this could happen or maybe already has.

Some day in an infusion room you might see a brave and resilient retiree sporting a shirt that says "Eyebrows are so last year." And she might smile at the young twenty-something nurse whose locks she admires. And they'll both smile because they are both empowered.
Tenderly ironic. Maybe we youngins' have something to teach older cancer survivors afterall.
But they should not forget where they are learning it.

1 comment:

Ali said...

young adults rock