We’ve said in past blog entries that so much happens in a day, and the reason I seem to keep repeating that phrase is because it’s so true! To think that this morning I woke up in Thunder Bay, Ontario after being in Winnipeg the day before, and that now I’m on a plane bound for Rome, and eventually (here it comes: the cat outta’ the bag!) Casablanca, Morocco, is just a crazy thought. [And I’m not the only one taking off on an excursion; Mikey and Pat are headed to NYC tomorrow morning to attend the OMG! Summit (a young adult cancer conference) and connect with people to hopefully show the film at some point down the line. Jason & Cassandra are off to navigate the Canadian Shield in the RV solo while they drive down from Thunder Bay to pick Mikey up in 2 days from the Toronto Airport. So it’s a transition time for all of us (and rather unexpected all across the board!)] However, it’s also a super exciting thought, and as I reflect on what these days have looked like and what they mean to me, it’s still hard to believe I’m actually living them.
If you would have told me when Mikey was diagnosed with cancer almost 3 years ago now that in a short time we would have taken a group of survivors on an incredible kayaking expedition, bared our souls and dug deep within our cancer experiences, filmed the experience, and then would take said film across the country…well, I wouldn’t have believed you! But as I sit here listening to the theme song of our trip (“The Cave,” by Mumford & Sons), I am reminded that this is indeed real and I am overcome with emotions: joy, amazement, gratitude.
(Nescafé and an iPod…yep, I’m going overseas!)
I know I can speak for us as a group (Mikey, Cassandra, Jason and I) when I say that we have learned much from this time away, and I wanted to share a bit of those thoughts with you as I take 10 days to step away from the beautiful chaos of the WW2H tour.
- There is freedom in stepping outside yourself. When we only focus on ourselves, we miss out on the real joy in life. At every cancer retreat, conference, and support group I have been to, I’ve heard the phrase “self-care” and honestly felt conflicted about the discussions that have taken place within that context. The first time I actually heard this then new-to-me-phrase was as an RA (resident assistant) at Trinity Western University (TWU). I was in charge of leading a great group of girls and those mentoring me told me from the beginning that I could very well get burnt out if I only invested in others and “forgot” myself in the process (at TWU, the act of being an RA is much more of a leadership, mentoring and encouraging role rather than a rule-enforcing role and can therefore be very draining). The experience was incredible for me; I learned so much, was forced to do things I probably wouldn’t have done had it not been for my role on campus that year, and grew immensely. I learned that running was a positive way for me to release stress and have some “me” time, but I was careful to never let it get to the point where that me time took over all my other time. In many of these retreats and conferences, I’ve felt conflicted when it comes to the inevitable (and indeed, important) session on self-care. It hit me last night when Jason said during the screening outside, “Self-care is good to a point if you’re employing self-care with the end of helping others.” It’s so true! It becomes empty if you simply work on yourself, take time for only yourself, and make excuses to essentially serve yourself rather than others. I’m not saying that time for yourself isn’t important (I have been consistently running on tour to keep myself and those around me sane! I love and cherish that time by myself which is why I often run alone)…but if you are engaging in self-care without the desire to be filled back up to help others, it is empty and selfish. This tour has encouraged me to give back and has given us all the chance to find freedom in serving others by bringing this film to them, engaging in conversation afterward, enduring the break-neck pace of the days, and ultimately, doing this all for others’ benefits. Of course I am receiving tons of personal gain too, but the joy comes from serving others. I am thrilled to have the chance to do that and learn from the experience along the way.
- Stepping outside my comfort zone is ALWAYS a good thing. This is something we say a lot, and something that your average person will agree with as being true, but to live it in this way has been wonderful. I’ve been pushed in my public speaking, in accepting constructive criticism about said public speaking (), and have learned to be confident in my story as a supporter rather than a survivor, a wife to an incredible husband. There are times when I have bucked the criticism and not received it with the best attitude and times when I have not felt like being “on” when I’m tired and a screening is about to start. But stepping out and doing something new is only making me a better person, and I am so grateful for that because certainly not everyone has the chance to do this in such a neat way.
- God has turned our misery into ministry. Abundantly true, always encouraging. Mikey and I first heard this statement from our pastor at our church in Calgary and have never forgotten it since. Indeed, the hardship, the suffering, the fear and the confusion of Mikey’s cancer has become a way for us to bring hope to others. I remember whenever I would lose a cross country or track race in high school my mom would remind me that people don’t connect to the #1 runner, but to the second, third, and last place runner that tried. Our cancer experience has connected us to so many people, cancer in their life or some other hardship. We’ve received some beautiful emails about how people with Chron’s Disease and Diabetes connected to the themes presented in WW2H and were encouraged by what they watched.
(Connecting with community after the Victoria screening.)
Making it rocks, but more people connect to the times when you fall. It’s what you do with your attitude in those times and how you choose to open up to others in your vulnerability that will make you accessible or above others. We are at the point in our journey where God is using our misery for his glory, and we would not take any of it back because he is able to use it to honor him and to humble and grow us every day.
I am grateful for this chance to reflect on all that I have learned and am continuing to learn in this beautiful experience. In short, I am…
I am also glad to not worry about looks in a busy and crowded Toronto Pearson International Airport in order to get push ups in:
(Got 200 in despite the funny glances from onlookers! )
…and grateful for a (free) glass of red wine on the plane (my first alcohol on a plane – can you believe it?) and the (free) meal – obviously I am used to abstaining from food and drink while I travel because it’s so expensive! Sad but true!
So a departure for me from the regular tour schedule and a departure from a strictly “wrap up” post for you. I am contemplative, always, when I travel and thankful for the chance to think and reflect. Thanks for joining me in my thoughts and I hope this time bodes well for the group as they continue to travel and share hope and for you in your life wherever you’re reading from. Have a great weekend! Until next time,