Last night I had the privilege of attending a talk by Geoff Eaton, the founder of Young Adult Cancer Canada(YACC).

By: Robin Harry

Last night I had the privilege of attending a talk by Geoff Eaton, the founder of Young Adult Cancer Canada(YACC). Months ago, in my search for other people and stories that were similar to mine, I came across YACC’s website, and was pleasantly surprised. There were other young adults like me, with cancer, and with amazing survival stories. I was fascinated by them, but even more than that, these were people that I could actually relate to, and I was encouraged by their lives (I have since submitted my own profile). I attended last night’s talk at Wellspring among a group of other young cancer patients/survivors like me, and it was a great experience.

Geoff Eaton has one of the most ridiculously difficult cancer stories I have ever heard. Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in his early 20s, he had rounds of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, an infection that nearly killed him, and a recurrence after 2 years cancer free. Unbelievable. But he’s here now, he’s a survivor and he has a family of his own. He started YACC during what I would call a cancer intermission (between recurrences). He shares his story with others, and shares some of the wisdom and perspective he’s gained through his challenge. His story alone is inspiring, but he also gave me and all the other folks some food for thought.

One of the things he talked about was the struggle between the fear of recurrence and having dreams/goals in life. That’s something I hadn’t really thought about, but realized that I really can identify with. I mentioned in a previous blog entry one of the problems with being a young adult with cancer; life essentially gets put on hold. Most young adults are planning their lives, starting families and/or careers, buying homes, etc. They think about when they retire, not when they’re going to be sick (or worse). But as a cancer patient or survivor, at any age, our mortality stares us in the face all the time. We can consciously put it on the back burner, but it doesn’t stay there. Quite frankly, it’s hard to plan for retirement when you’re just praying to make it to 50. So it’s easy for cancer patients to forego having dreams and aspirations in fear of never having the chance to fulfill them. Without really being conscious of it, I’ve realized that I have stopped dreaming big. I’ve essentially put any further career goals on hold until I get the all clear. I try not to think about having a relationship or a family until I know whether I can have one at all.

What Geoff tried to make clear though, was that it’s worth it to have dreams – even if we never get the chance to see them through. The fear of recurrence, (or in my current case, longer treatments than I bargained for), shouldn’t keep us from aiming high. Living for five minutes with a dream to reach for is way better than living for years without anything to aspire to. So while it’s a good idea to take life one day at a time as a cancer patient, there’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams. I’m going to embrace that from now on.

So here’s to my dreams: my career as a physician’s assistant, my condominium in York Region, my two cats named Mulder and Scully, my vacations in South America, my close friendship with Nathan Fillion, and my husband Zachary Levi (okay, those last two aren’t entirely realistic, but as a self-professed nerd, as long as I’m dreaming big…)


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