Well today I was fortunate enough to attend the “Celebration of Life” luncheon given in recognition of the 25th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day, given by the The Cancer Program at the hospital I receive my treatment from. I really wasn’t sure what it was going to be like but the keynote speaker looked interesting, I was available, and it was free. I hadn’t invited anyone to go with me because I wasn’t real sure what the whole thing was going to be like. On the way there a major road I needed to access was closed at the entrance ramp and detoured me in the opposite direction. Upon finally getting turned around all three lanes went into one and I found myself sitting in traffic thinking I would be very late. I was ready to turn around and just come home but I am so glad I didn’t.
Upon arriving I assumed there must be other functions going on with all the cars and people dressed up. I was greeted warmly at the door and to my surprise there were no other functions going on. The place was filled with 700 people, mostly cancer survivors, some doctors and staff, and some friends. Remember I said I came alone? At this point it was easy to find seating for one and just look for an empty seat. I tried to pick a table of women around my age and sat down. A waitress took my order and when the food was served I had a delicious salmon dinner.
The speaker was a comedian who was also a juggler and an author but more importantly is a 20 year cancer survivor. His message on surviving with a positive attitude was filled with jokes that especially appealed to anyone who has undergone cancer treatment and dealt with hospitals and doctors. We laughed repeatedly. He even entertained us by juggling. We all received a copy of his book to take home as well. I was so impressed that even in a room of 700, my oncologist recognized me, came over, called me by name and welcomed me!
As much as I enjoyed and appreciated a free luncheon with a delicious meal and entertainment, I enjoyed even more getting to know the women at my table. I think within a few minutes after a round of introductions we all felt so comfortable with each other that it seemed like we had known each other for years. A mixture of ages and races didn’t separate us. It was like the “Sisterhood of the Traveling IV’s.” We shared our stories with each other and had a common thread. We could easily relate to each other and laughed at similar experiences. We all agreed to come again next year and sit in that same area of the room to find each other.
I find this is true not just with strangers I meet that are cancer survivors, but even with acquaintances I already had. Once I was diagnosed, I immediately sought out others that I knew who had been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment and felt a certain kinship that wasn’t there before. I think this happens because until you receive a cancer diagnosis yourself, it’s hard to know exactly what that feels like. For those of you who are fortunate enough to not have received a cancer diagnosis, you’re unfortunately not part of our club!
2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (The Message Version) Hebrews 4:15 says, “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (NIV) We all need each other and it’s so important for us to encourage one another, especially when you can totally relate and understand what someone else is going through.
My hats (and hair) off to others in my cancer kinship club! We will survive!