You Are Not Alone

by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

This past weekend, I attended the National Women’s Survivorship Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Attending were over 800 women from across the country (mostly the United States, but a few of us from Canada). The founders, Karen Shayne and Judy Pearson, started only last year to rally women together and create a force to be reckoned with by sheer numbers and stories.

Arriving on my own, not knowing anyone there other than a few individuals I had connected with on social media, I was embraced and welcomed into the whole group very quickly. Everyone was warm, enthusiastic, and upbeat.

When diagnosed with cancer, it often feels like you’re alone. Your situation can be dire and you’re scared. Depending on where you live, there may be support groups in your area – or not. But even if there is support, I know for some it is difficult to get out and seek that help. That can be a physical reason, energy is low, or you don’t want people to know. For some, it is just something they want to handle on their own. I’ve heard all the reasons. Equally what I’ve heard, is ‘Why didn’t I do this earlier?’ when people finally reach out.

If you had been here this weekend, you would know that YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT ALONE. There were women of every age, type of cancer, stages 1 – 4, and situations of every condition and lifestyle. There were the newly diagnosed, the long term survivors, those with multiple reoccurrences, and those with recent reoccurrences. Remarkable stories of challenge and inspiration were shared.

I recall many years ago when I was going through my treatment that just when I thought my situation was bad, there would always be someone else whose situation was so much worse. Definitely, that put my journey into perspective. Kept my pity party to a low rumble! It can be that way for you too.

There is no need to go through this journey alone – or even with just a few people who are wonderful supporters. Out in this world of cancer, there is so much hope, help, and inspiration upon which to draw. Truly there is a legion of women who have gone through the experience and healed in one form or another. We all stand as testaments to the indomitable spirit of women to rise to the occasion and stride forward.  We, as women, are also caring individuals who want to be there for each other no matter the circumstance.

Once I get back home and go through my notes, I will be sharing information and stories of those who attended. We really need to reach out and let the world know that we are here. That we want to be heard and recognized for the struggle that is cancer. Our stories of courage and inspiration can:

  • Fuel new ways to heal,
  • Foster better understanding by those who look on from the outside,
  • Educate to inspire more corporate support when we endeavour to return to the workplace,
  • Create more programs and funding to help us heal, and most of all,
  • Let those still in treatment or struggling know that there is a way to rebuild and find their wellness.

I’m still in overwhelm from all the wonderful connections for collaboration and support as are many who attended. Working together was the theme. Together we can be more. Together we can make a difference. Together we can move mountains.

Next year, I would highly recommend attending yourself and experience the sisterhood of cancer, the group we never wanted to be invited to, but the one we have been dealt. It is an uplifting forum. To find out more, go to http://www.survivorville.org/. The date for next year’s convention has been moved up to the beginning of June to coincide with the Nashville Music Festival. Also many more plans are underway to expand and increase awareness. The support is huge and growing.

Big hugs,

Barbara

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