I did a lot of things this week. I applied for jobs, played D&D, gave a guitar lesson, and went to my first open night at Kwartzlab. I went to the symphony, learned some great new songs at band practice, helped a friend move a cabinet, and learned how to win with Eldar. Earlier today, I was going to write about all of that. Well, some of that. But I thought I’d wait until after I got back from Hopespring Cancer Support Centre’s grand opening to write this, just in case. I was right to do it. The people I met there and the stories they shared with me really hit home and reminded my why I love doing work with them.
There were a lot of speeches before they cut the ribbon. MPs, the Mayor of Kitchener, a representative from the Mayor of Waterloo, and a number of Hopespring executives. And one story. She had volunteered for Hopespring, but her father had been a patient. Blinded in an accident, he didn’t let anything slow him down, running in marathons and doing work in the community. Hopespring helped him when he needed it, providing care and support for him and his family. You’ve heard these stories before and so have I. Then she said his name. Mike Tyrell. And I realized I knew him. He was a social worker with Big Brothers for years, and it was through him that I met my first Big Brother, who was one of the finest human beings it’s ever been my privilege to know. Mike was always patient and understanding, and I remember our meetings fondly. He wasn’t able to be there in person, but I met his wife, and she offered to pass on my thanks for his service, and my good wishes.
Cancer touches all of us. We all know someone, or know someone who knows someone who’s had it. We don’t like to think about it, because it forces us to confront our own mortality. We call people whose cancer is in remission or is removed “Survivors,” because we think the diagnosis is a death sentence. I can only imagine what hearing that word from your doctor is like. Everything changes. Your routine is negotiated around appointments. The stress changes the way you sleep, and both the disease and the treatment even alter the way you look. We see those changes as part of dying, a spectre floating around you day in and day out. But you’re not dying from cancer, you’re living with it. Until you breathe your last, you’re living with it, and like living with any other form of hardship, you need the support of your community.
That’s what Hopespring does. There are lots of research centres and initiatives that focus on fighting the disease, to stop people from dying of it, and their work is beyond admirable. But what Hopespring does is help people who are living with it. Through counselling and support groups, but also through exercise and relaxation. Hopespring’s staff and volunteers create a welcoming climate you can be yourself, because they understand what you’re going through. Patients at Hopespring know that though they may be facing their own mortality, they’re not doing it alone.
Today really galvanized me, and gave me a new perspective on the work I do with Hopespring’s Community Committee, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it with you. Especially with Movember coming up, it’s been on my mind. Thanks.