It’s October 1st and as I flipped the calendar over this morning I have to be completely honest, there is a small part of me that breathed just a little easier.
I’m not supposed to say that. I’m not. Telling the truth – my truth – is hard sometimes. And this particular truth comes with a lot of guilt this year.
I am privileged to be a part of so many wonderful communities. Communities of sport moms and neighbours and family and school and colleagues and friends.
I also happen to be a part of this other extraordinary community. It’s a group of women whom I adore, look up to, and identify with. They are strong beyond measure and I admire them for so many things. But more than anything else I admire them for walking the talk.
They are mothers of both angels and of childhood cancer survivors. And this post is such a hard thing for me to admit because I take my part – my role – in that community so seriously and hold it very close to my heart.
September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is a month when we in this community come together and speak with one voice. Some of us whisper, some shout, some are eloquent, some sorrowful, some raw, and some full of grace. But all of us tell our truth. Because it’s the month we step up.
But this year I didn’t step up. This year I had to step back.
By being part of this community, I have seen things that people from my other communities haven’t seen. That I still see. I have conversations they don’t have and I read stories they don’t read.
“When Cancer is the Side effect of Cancer”. “The Chronic Illnesses of long Term Cancer Survivors”. “Childhood Cancer Survivors Face Lifelong Challenges”.
All of these stories, conversation, articles and images culminate for me in September.
They fill my newsfeed, my twitter feed, my messenger, my newspapers, my magazines and my emails.
They also fill my heart, my mind, and particularly this year, they fill that place of worry that never goes away.
These images of children no longer physically with us, of children relapsing, of children in treatment. Articles that echo the things we are living with and/or worry about everyday but rarely talk about. These things are all part of my world that usually I actively participate in. But they can, every once in awhile, be too heavy and I have to take a step back.
And the guilt of that decision is difficult for me to accept. But I am trying hard to put it into perspective, because when I take a moment to pause, I realize I have done much for our cause over the years. I have done much for this community.
I have raised awareness and funds, each year trying to do something to give back. I have raised tens of thousands of dollars shaving my head, raised thousands for Children’s Wish in Exile Island, collected band aids and room stick ups for the hospitals, visited patients, doctors and nurses on Christmas day with gifts in tow, participated in the Mollie Appeal and Young and Fearless, gathered groups to donate blood, Relayed for Life, started a blog, Campaigned for Hospital Foundations, volunteered on Ethics Committees, been featured for Radiothons and lent our story to countless organizations for awareness.
I take my role in giving back very seriously, and I’m so proud of the things I have accomplished for this community.
But although I am proud of these accomplishments, it doesn’t ease the guilt that comes with taking that step back for the year, or making a conscious choice not to do as much as I have done in the past. I’m a big believer that actions are what matter in life, and our thoughts alone do little to enact any change in this world.
However – and this is a big however – I’m also learning that being a part of a community means you are not alone.
And that every once in awhile, if every few years or so, I need a break from ‘September’, I have to say to myself, that’s ok. It’s ok because I am doing what needs to be done to take care of ‘me’, to refuel and recharge in a world where I still have to deal with so much others don’t see. And it’s ok because I know that as I step back, others will step up. Fighting and shouting and whispering our cause. And when they are tired and they feel heavy, then that will be the year that I step up again, when I feel stronger and more able to be public once more about our journey.
I am so thankful for this community … for these Mothers. Because I know they understand my guilt, my worries, my needs, my fears, and my gratitude. And although I worry about letting them down, I know they would be the first ones to tell me to take the time I need, to not be ridiculous, and that they look forward to me standing beside them again soon.
So for now, for this past month of September, I gave myself the permission not to step up in the ways I have in the past, but instead to applaud ‘those who can’ this time around. I attended the events ‘they’ organized, gave to the funds ‘they’ raised and were grateful for the awareness ‘they’ were able to bring.
And that’s what I did. I applauded. I showed up. I donated. Because even when we can’t do it all … we still need to do what we can.