by Terri Wingham, breast cancer survivor
The moment after you rang the chemo bell to signify the end of treatment or you ate the last crumb on the “Congratulations – You Made It Through Cancer” cake, did you wonder if you could click your heels three times and be transported back into your pre-cancer life? Did you look around in open-mouthed amazement when you realized cancer had forever changed you and that the “end” of treatment signalled the beginning of a brand new post-cancer journey?
Perhaps, like me, the “after cancer” road came complete with some unexpected land-mines like fears of recurrence, lingering side effects, and a volcano of suppressed (because you were too busy battling through pain or nausea to recognize them) emotions. When I wrapped up my final reconstruction surgery (post chemo and double mastectomy), I waited for the streamers, noisemakers, and old-school renditions of Auld Lang Syne to filter through my consciousness as I embraced the brand new, ‘ready for anything because I’d been through cancer’, me.
Sadly, this super-hero alter ego did not appear. Instead I had to wade through the murky waters of my past life, searching for remnants of the person I used to be. When I couldn’t put those pieces together again, I retreated behind a Humpty-Dumpty wall of fear and isolation. I was angry because everyone in my life assumed I didn’t need any more support and yet, a story about someone getting diagnosed with cancer or even the water pressure from the shower on my freshly cut chest sent me reeling through PTSD flashbacks. I was jumpy, irritable, and collecting my sadness in crumpled tissues on my bedroom floor.
Thankfully, on New Years Day 2011, everything changed. As you might have read in my February post on this site, a spark of an idea about volunteering in Africa finally helped shift me from a state of despair to a new world of possibility.
My six weeks in Cape Town helped me heal emotionally from cancer and provided even further inspiration for my recent 6-month Adventure of Hope. This trip around the world allowed me to explore the concept of international volunteering as a way to help other survivors regain confidence and find new meaning and purpose in their lives. It also gave me the opportunity to find the best international volunteer partners in the industry and to decide where we should launch this brand new concept.
Now, I’m back in North America and it’s time to take this dream to the next level. A Fresh Chapter is looking for 12 people who want to join us on our next Big Hairy Audacious Adventure. We are taking 12 cancer survivors, a researcher, and a film-maker to New Delhi, India in February 2013 where we will have the chance to volunteer internationally, create global connections, and write brand new chapters in our stories.
Do you need a Fresh Chapter in your life or do you know someone who does? We would love you to help us spread the word. You can join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #delhi2013 and you can sign up to get the latest up-to-the minute information on the trip by visiting – A Fresh Chapter – Delhi 2013. The time for dreaming audacious, post-cancer dreams is now and we would love you to join us on this next Adventure of Hope.
The recent six month Adventure of Hope laid the groundwork for the Fresh Chapter Foundation, which will create opportunities for other cancer survivors to begin to heal emotionally by volunteering internationally.