“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” Christopher Reeves.
Cancer strips us of our dreams. Steals life’s colour and leaves us in a grey fog. A bleak landscape where our to-do list takes on a decidedly dark bent:
- Show up to oncologist appointment to discuss toxicity of drugs that will bring me to the brink of death as a way to (hopefully) save my life.
- Channel my best composed face as family and friends burst into tears (or go numb with shock) as they silently assess the risk of me dying.
- Pretend to be fine when all I really want is to pull the duvet over my eyes for the day, the week, or really until the nightmare ends.
Impervious to our stalled out dreams, the world outside bustles on. It leaves us broken and discarded while friends get married, have babies, send kids off to college, and plan winter getaways to tropical sandy shores. We sit in chemo chairs, climb on top of surgical tables, and file our dreams under the same folder as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. They have all ceased to be real.
So, what happens when the doctor tells us to get back to life? How do we sift through the fragments of our former selves and cross back into a world of colour and possibility?
CAN MORE JOY AND MEANING ACTUALLY HEAL US?
Five years ago on October 27, 2009, the old me ceased to exist. She died. Taken out by the shock of a diagnosis and then buried by the realization that I wasn’t in control of my destiny. Instead, cancer called the shots and I was strapped in for the duration.
For a long time, nothing could penetrate the darkness. I felt angry at the loss of my former life and isolated as friends expected the old me to be resurrected as soon as treatment came to a close. Well meaning people bombarded me with cliches about staying positive and celebrating life. No one seemed to understand that I would only heal when I could fully grieve the death of my old dreams and give myself a chance to believe in new ones.
Thankfully, a volunteer trip to Africa in 2011 changed everything. By stepping out of the landscape of sickness and traveling to a new world, I had space to reframe what I’d been through. By giving of my time to others, I remembered that my life has purpose. By doing something I never would have done before I got sick, I showed myself the possibility of reinvention.
In the midst of my dark nights, I could not have imagined the joy ahead. I did not know that the opportunity to help patients and survivors uncover fresh chapters in their stories would fuel me with a deep rooted sense of purpose. I did not know that the old me would have to die in order for this new version to emerge.
For two years, I have watched our Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation participants fall in love with India and with the opportunity to dream again. Some of these patients and survivors had never left the continent, never eaten Indian food, and never believed that something as amazing as a trip to the other side of the world could eclipse cancer as the central storyline in their lives.
But, they chose to believe in a dream. They fundraised to make it happen. They boarded flights bound for the unknown. They immersed themselves in community projects where they had the chance to volunteer and make an impact on the lives of others. They stood in front of the Taj Mahal and held their heads high because for once cancer had led to awe and beauty instead of darkness and destruction. For those two weeks, nothing but beautiful, bright, technicolor life existed. They returned home emboldened to find other dreams (big or small) to fill them with purpose as they continued to navigate the uncertain waters of living with and beyond cancer.
Our FCAF Tribe has shown me the healing power of joy and meaning. They have helped me appreciate how being lit up by a cause can help diminish the darkness of loss and the fear of recurrence. They are the reason why 12 of YOU will have the chance to join us when our 2015 FCAF International Program kicks off in New Delhi February 28 – March 14, 2015.
DO YOU WANT IN ON THE ADVENTURE?
Have you been waiting for a chance to start fresh in a big way? We would love you to join us for FCAF India 2015. Check out the details here: FCAF International Programs and then apply and share your story below.
We’d love your help in spreading the word. Please share this post with the people in your lives impacted by cancer and your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. With your help, we will reach the many people impacted by cancer who need to believe a new dream is possible. If you haven’t had cancer, but want an opportunity to be part of this adventure, contact us here. We have a few spots open as part of our brand new Ambassadors Program. We can’t wait to welcome you to our big dreaming family….