Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dancin' In The Rain

Yesterday morning I was greeted by a most incredible poem, the status message of a young woman I've gotten to know in the hospital. She's 16 years old and as is often the case of the young people I get to meet - she's wise beyond her years.

I won't share her poem on here. She's given me permission to post it on the Teens Living with Cancer Facebook page . But its gist is that so many people bemoan rain falling on them and dash away from it with angst. There's been a lot of rain in 'monsoon Rochester' these past few weeks. One might understand the frustration.

This young woman chose to take the rain differently. 
Her answer: let the rain fall on her and enjoy the feeling of simply being alive. She knows now at 16 that time is not assured. She knows that time is a gift, no matter the length. Experiences must be taken as they are - even if we desire something different. That's because sometimes we just are not given a choice. SO it is that this young woman has chosen to celebrate...

And how did she come to realize this?

Well, I don't have the answer to that question. Because despite cliches you might hear about cancer survivors- not everyone is magically given inner strength. Young people face especially steep obstacles as they weave their way through the chaos that is a life already so yet undefined. Sometimes young cancer survivors must traverse a rocky trail without the soft cushion of comforts on that journey. Things like gratitude, hope, laughter, simple joy...or even the support of friendship on an entirely deep level. 

That's why I love doing what we do at TLC. Whether the comforts are there for the traveler or not- they are given and/or reinforced in our special place. Being able to join forces in that shared deep understanding is key to what makes friendships cement together in our 'little program that could'.

This August we are climbing a mountain. That's right. Eight teens are going to climb a mountain with us in the Adirondacks and maybe feel the rain on their skin without the shelter of four walls. Feel and know that they are capable of reaching their dreams.
For you Colorado friends this by comparison, may be a hill. But their challenge will be very real on this trip.

We've been preparing for that trek. Last week we met at Mendon Ponds Park with our wilderness zen master, Rick French. We were there to learn the basics, but mainly to just feel what it's like to take ourselves out of the clutter of our busy and overstimulated lives. And yes, the rain fell on us as we paddled to shore. And it was wonderful.

I know I share these things often with you. The lessons our teens continually remind me of reinforce why I love what I do. Because they share with me...I am blessed.

Their lessonsdon't really shrink into a Hallmark card. The quote at the top of this blog is the best I've come up with, but it pales in comparison to that 16-year-old's facebook status I mentioned.

The depth of what I learn from these young people I am privileged to meet through this work feeds me and my life. It's what drives both Lauren and I forward... to help all of them get to this 'dancing in the rain' level of resilience. It's deep stuff most times.

More than five years ago I wrote Lauren Spiker an email. Lauren inspired me, but it was her daughter Melissa's story that brought me a piercing and profound understanding of what remains to be done for teen cancer survivors. I came aboard as a volunteer, moved toward part time worker...and now the Teens Living with Cancer program is officially my job. 

For this work, having already trekked my own difficulties as a young adult I already had an edge. Knowing the landscape of forgotten cancer survivors I had an understanding. However, as a 26 year old and then a 28 year old during each respective diagnosis, I was lucky to have been swept into the momentum and strength of a movement for young adults - it was happening everywhere, all over the web and throughout conferences happening all over the nation. 

But five years ago I was educated. It was the A in AYA (Adolescents and Young Adults) that was absent. There were voices speaking out for the twenty and thirty somethings - feeling justifiably out of place. In the United States...we had Lauren Spiker and her daughter' legacy. 

Teens tred water at the deeper end of that AYA pool the 15-39 pool. They were forgotten by even the movement that spurred such national attention. Until one mother, who I now am lucky enough to work along side said "Hey, what about them?"

Not every soul touched by cancer is lucky enough to dance in the rain. It's hard to get to enjoying life in throes of this cellular and singular experience called cancer. Yet, tools we provide do make a difference. How do we keep doing what we're doing?
The answer is we need you.

I hope you'll continue to remember the other group some have forgotten. So the A in AYA can also dance in the rain.

And I want to announce to those who run (or walk)
Sunday October 13th you will have a chance to help that forgotten group with TLC's first ever 5k!!!!

Will you please help me get the word we can continue to give teens TLC.
Join me 10-13-13 a run for our teens!

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