This weekend (in fact, my birthday weekend) was spent enjoying the hospitality of Camp Kindle, thanks to a partnership with Survive and Thrive. You may have even heard about it in the news. As many of you already know from my blog, young adults fall between the cracks in cancer care. There aren’t a tonne of resources, or support (personal or financial) that’s easily found. Cancer is often viewed as a disease that affects only the old and very young children, someone in their 20’s or 30’s just cannot be a cancer patient! This attitude may not seem like much to a normal person, but it’s detrimental when young adult cancers aren’t studied for their specific complications, or there aren’t places for young adults to get away and connect with others like them.
That’s where groups like YACC and Survive and Thrive are critical. They provide a place for young adults to connect with other young adults affected by cancer. It doesn’t matter what stage, or what kind of cancer, or even if it’s early days, everyone has a story and wants to connect. All twenty five of us got to do that this weekend. Below, is my impression of the weekend.
The camp started on Friday night. After setting up our beds, everyone pilled into the “living room” of the Jack Perraton Lodge to talk about what we hoped to create that weekend (as that was the theme, create something). Soon, only a small group was left, and we sat talking until later that evening. I love those kinds of conversations, ones that don’t feel forced or contrived, just straight conversation that gets to the heart of a matter. I found that happened a lot this weekend, we would meet often in that room and just talk about anything bothering us, just “getting” what we were all feeling. I’ve often said that I feel the one thing cancer does is expose people to a new way of thinking. The regular bullshit and pettiness of the world is melted away, and what’s left is someone who is honest, but kind, and knows what they want. Time and time again, that was proven from this amazing group of people. And they reminded me again that I do belong, and that I can contribute to others healing and wellness, that I am not just someone complaining when I have nothing to complain about.
There were the usual games, good food (Tim Tam slams), craft time (which is where the above beautiful card was made for me, along with the picture frame below), and general silliness many of us lack in our daily lives. It was too cold for most outdoor activities, though people did go out for a few hikes around the beautiful grounds. It’s still the conversations that draw me back, and remind me how necessary retreats or weekends away from the world are. I’ve often been told by people that I spend too much time thinking about cancer, and that it can’t be good, but the exact opposite is true, going to a weekend like this I think not only more positively about my pre-cancer, but I actually spend more time being happy surrounded by great people. We can talk about anything, and no one looks at you weird for talking about “uncomfortable things”. I really appreciate that the group that runs Camp Kindle reached out to Mike and Bonnie (creators of Survive and Thrive) and allowed everyone such a great, relaxing weekend in a supportive environment. I hope they keep this partnership in the future.
I know I wasn’t the only one sad to leave. Quite honestly, if I could stay there with these people indefinitely, I would have. Cancer or not, we all just seem to connect, and I think we could make an amazing community, the kind of community the world needs more of (I know, kind of hippy of me, but it’s true!). I don’t often get to celebrate my birthday with a big group of people, and I was very lucky to this year. I got hugs, best wishes, and told good things about me, which helped to silence some of those darker voices inside. I won’t soon forget my 37th birthday, that is for sure!
Again, thanks to everyone involved, Camp Kindle, Cassie, Lisa, Maureen, Mike, and Bonnie! And remember, if you are needing a stunning venue for an event, Camp Kindle could be available. It’s how they help fund some of the wonderful programming they provide to young kids, and now (hopefully) young adults.