My sweet friend Tiffany and her family are at the beach on vacation this week. She joined me on a mile walk this weekend along the coast. I met Tiffany on a cancer survivor trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. We learned to surf together and have kept in touch since then. Even though we both live in the south now, we are both northerners at heart. We just perceive 55 degrees a little different (notice our clothing choices.)
Tiffany is a mother of three and a triple negative breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed four years ago this February at age 35.
We mostly talked of our families and how much of our effort goes in to them. Again, the mention of the cancer institutes and how we feel so young compared to the majority of the patients. Talks like these solidify how important our community of young survivors are. We spoke about our husbands and how much they take on for us as care takers and how stubborn they can be about asking for help. Nutrition and healthy habits were also discussed. How our treatments past and present still affect how we eat, exercise and our mental health – all of things we struggle with being a cancer survivor.
The more I talk to young survivors the more I hear the same thing. No matter if we are years out or recently diagnosed, we feel an isolation in the cancer community due to our age and also cancer affects our daily lives no matter where we are in our journey. And, the fear of recurrence is always in our minds.
Why aren’t there more centers for younger cancer survivors. There isn’t a ton of research and statistics out there for cancers survivors under 40. What if there was a place where young survivors and their families could travel and get medical advice, support groups and family therapy. A center combining a medical office and YMCA type facility with a pool, rock climbing wall, art rooms, nutrition classes, and doctor offices. A place to explain to children what is happening and they are not alone. A place where husbands can casually chat how awful stripping drains are while their kids play in the pool and not call it a “support group.” A place where a young woman or man can walk in and not feel alone in a crowd of elderly cancer patients.
32-Miles was created as a personal challenge for me to regain strength and give encouragement to others to go out and take the first step in their recovery. Over the past few months I am beginning to understand how important community and exercise is to recovery.
Today I am hopeful one day my husband and I will create a retreat type center where healing will take place – bringing survivors and their families together at the beach. Conversations like this today, make my heart believe it can happen.