Today I attended a workshop through ‘Look Good Feel Better’. It’s a wonderful charity where expert volunteers provide a makeup workshop for women being treated for cancer, and everyone leaves with a goody bag donated by cosmetics companies.
I had a really lovely time and felt quite spoiled with all the goodies. But the best part was getting to meet other woman going through the same experience.
The woman who sat next to me gave me so much hope, just by sharing a bit of her story.
Let me explain.
From the beginning of the workshop, I felt her notice me – a hard feeling to explain, but we all know that feeling when it happens. After chatting a bit, she asked me how old I was – not surprising I suppose, because I was clearly the youngest person there.
I told her a bit about my treatment and asked her about hers. (She has a beautiful name, but out of respect for her privacy, I am keeping this anonymous.)
And that’s when I understood why she had noticed me – I wasn’t that much younger than she was when first diagnosed.
It turns out, she was one of those folks dealt an unlucky hand time and time again.
Her first go-round with cancer was 14 years ago. That was seemingly successfully treated, but five years later it returned, mutating to progressively more difficult to treat strains.
She has been living with secondary cancer since then. She experienced metastases in her brain (one of my greatest fears), but these had been successfully radiated and appeared to be gone. Her current treatment radiation to manage a small metastasis in one of her internal organs.
This woman looked fantastic and was speaking with kindness and energy. I know firsthand how deceiving looks can be with this sort of thing, but she clearly had a full and engaging life in spite of everything she had been through.
I’ve read stories from people living with secondaries on Facebook, but this was the first time gotten to meet someone in these circumstances. She was nothing like the picture my more frightening dreams had painted of secondary cancer.
But this is the part that connected with me the most – her daughter was two years old when she was diagnosed. But this woman is still here today, loving and supporting her little girl as she gets ready for university.
To me, she felt like the living embodiment of hope.
I am going to hold that beautiful little flame of joy and inspiration close in my heart, and warm my hands on it whenever the fears start to creep up.
At the end of the session, I felt so positive and energised – not just by the pampering, but also by her story. I told her with a big smile how much just meeting her meant to me. How it gave me faith that I was going to get to watch my little girl grow up.
I think this touched her almost as much as it touched me.
She gave me a big hug, and said:
‘You’ll be there.’