I am writing this from Montreal, about 350 miles from my home in New York City. I came for my cousin’s wedding, and that was lovely—but I arranged my return trip around the chance to see my YSC friend Theresa, a native New Yorker who now, with her husband and two lovely Canadian-born girls, lives here.
I’ll see Theresa tomorrow—but I woke up this morning in my little AirBnb bedroom with the day unplanned before me and in a somewhat melancholy mood. The last time I was in Montreal was for Angie’s memorial. Angie, a bright light in the lives of so many of us in YSC. Angie who made us laugh till we cried; Angie who took it upon herself to head up so many “card showers” when YSC sisters needed extra support. Angie who was diagnosed just as she was about to take a great job out of law school, but who, due to failing health, never got to start that job. Angie, so smart, so incredibly kind—who, even with far too little time on this planet, made her mark in so very many ways. Here in Montreal, Angie’s home city, I wish so dearly that I could call her, see her face.
People ask me, sometimes, why I stay involved in YSC as I do. Why, when the news can be bad? Why, when there can be losses? Why would I continue to leave myself open to that?
The answer is as complicated, and as compelling, as life itself. Actually, the answer pretty much is life itself—which to me and to many of my YSC friends has even greater intensity and clarity than it did before cancer. Intensity because, yes, there can be losses, but even as we grieve, we are reminded to live our lives in the richest, fullest ways we can. And clarity in that what matters, and what does not, tend to stand out more obviously to us now, helping us make meaningful choices.
Like: Go to the loved one’s birthday party—hell, help plan the party. Celebrate every success, your own and others’. Travel. Send a gift; send a card (cost is not the point; send from the heart). Make the phone call; make the plan to meet. Go to the concert that makes you smile in anticipation. Tell those you love how you feel. Maintain healthy boundaries in draining situations. Touch base with your hopes and dreams—are they getting a fair share of your time?
My YSC friends—in NYC, all over the country, and in other countries too—help me remember to live this way, and they do it with me. Together, we strive; we celebrate; we try to keep perspective. And yes, if there are losses, we mourn together, too. The question is not why I would stay involved but why I would not. My YSC friends, and my engagement in the organization, help me to remember what matters in life.
As for today: I sent a message to YSC-er Sarah, who had mentioned possibly meeting up while I was here. I had absolutely no expectations, as 1) she lives two hours away and 2) she has never even met me in person before. But to my astonishment, Sarah is on her way. We will walk the streets of Montreal together.
Pamela is a writer, editor and young survivor based in NYC. You can read more of her work at communally.wordpress.com.
Tomorrow is the International Day of Friendship, proclaimed by the United Nations in 2011 in an effort to inspire peace and build bridges between communities. Today, more than ever, we need to celebrate our friendships—new and old, far and near. If you’re newly diagnosed, or if you’re just finding YSC, there are lots of ways to make friends with someone who has been right where you are—someone who will celebrate your wins and mourn your losses, someone who may well drive several hours to spend the day with you, even though you have never met in person before.
Meet in person at one of our conferences.
Join a local Face 2 Face meet up.