Thursday, January 16, 2020

Finding my tribe

After I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt alone and lost.  It didn't feel like anyone truly understood what I was going through. Oh, my family and friends did their best to offer their love and support but they just didn't get it. There was no way they could truly understand what cancer felt like because they hadn't gone through it themselves. I needed a tribe, a group of women who understood. A group of women who would be willing to accept me just as I was without needing me to pretend to be someone I was not. And so, I went in search of them.

I got on the internet and joined several breast cancer support groups. There were so many and I wasn't sure which ones were better than others, so I randomly selected a few. As I began reading the posts submitted by members, I was surprised. There were women who were feeling the exact things I was feeling. There were women who were struggling to find their identity. There were women who were overcome with emotion at having to fight a battle they never intended to fight. These women got it! Though they had never met me, they were embracing me with virtual hugs and love. It was so nice to be understood and to think, these complete strangers were being so kind to me and so welcoming, it was indescribable.

But some of the groups were filled with negativity. I tired quickly of reading their rants and their complaints so I left those groups. I focused on the other groups for a while but when I found faith based groups, I dropped all others. It was comforting to share a bond with sisters in Christ. Not only could we talk about our breast cancer journeys, we could also talk about our faith.

In one of those groups, I "met" a woman who was willing to come to my house. She'd been diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before me and she wanted to help me understand what was ahead of me on my journey. I was so grateful for her willingness to help and we became fast friends until she moved farther away and our friendship dwindled.

But God brought other women into my life, more tribe members! I "met" other ladies through articles I'd written for a cancer magazine. The women reached out to me one by one. The contacts came through Facebook Messenger and most of the women wanted to learn about my experiences with alternative therapies for fighting cancer. As I shared my trial and error experiences, they wanted to stay in touch. We exchanged phone numbers, email addresses, and even physical addresses. Though most of the women lived out of state, we found a way to stay in touch. My tribe had grown and was flourishing!

Each one of these women have met a special need in my life. God knew exactly who to send and when. I may never have a chance to meet any of the newest members of the tribe in person, but hopefully they'll know how much I value their friendship.

In the breast cancer community, tribe is everything. Sharing our experiences, we also share a commonality that binds us tightly together.

I never thought I needed a tribe, but I've found I do. If I hadn't taken time to reach out and risk rejection, I would never have found acceptance.

Breast cancer has a way of stealing a person's identity but with a tribe of us, its often easier to understand who we are...we are strong and brave. We are warriors who don't give up or give in. We need each other to be reminded we're never alone.

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