More Than a Respite…It’s Community
Twelve days after my 53rd birthday I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
A month later I had a bilateral mastectomy, began chemotherapy and felt the stinging effects of cancer’s isolation.
Few people understood what was happening to me and the fact that it was out of my control scared me. I didn’t have it in me to reach out to cancer support groups, I didn’t want to share with others I had cancer, and as crazy as it sounds, I didn’t want to know the type of breast cancer I was fighting.
Prior to cancer, I was thriving in my career as an interior designer. Then cancer consumed my time, and I was unable to work full-time and found myself struggling to cover medical and household bills. I tried to remain positive and plow through the treatments, but the pressure I felt to be strong for my children, my parents and for those uncomfortable with my diagnosis was overwhelming. I loathed anyone’s sympathy.
When my nurse navigator at Abramson Cancer Center shared the For Pete’s Sake mission and suggested my family could benefit from this experience, I was hesitant to accept the respite! I didn’t know if I wanted to be around other families as part of a community respite at Woodloch Resort.
My cancer was isolating and then COVID-19 magnified my isolation. I found myself crying more, saying “I don’t want to do this anymore” and struggling with the constant worry that cancer would come back. Deep down, I knew I needed this respite and I longed to be around people, but I was scared to confront cancer by myself and with strangers on respite.
My first day on respite I kept to myself. I stayed in my room, skipping the first bonfire to avoid having to talk to someone too who had this dreadful disease. The next morning, I spent time with my parents, hiking, playing paint ball and surprisingly, feeling like a kid again!
I started to realize this experience was less about cancer and more about relationships, and how they help us through the storm.
When I finally shared about my own cancer journey with other FPS travelers, I found an audience that listened with love. For the first time, I heard my own voice again – I discovered who I was both before and now with cancer.
This respite was a pivotal point in my cancer journey. While I couldn’t control my cancer, I could control how I live with it! Though the other families on respite faced different diagnosis and journeys, we all shared the common thread of cancer and how it redefines our relationships and reprioritizes our time spent with loved ones.
For Pete’s Sake offers more than just a respite; it builds community. This gift of community rejuvenated my spirit, renewed my outlook on life and helped me to emotionally heal during this unusual time. Thank you for this gift!
Cheryl Cummings, FPS Traveler June 2020