Everyone’s journey is an individual journey. It’s really important for patients not to try to fit into somebody else’s mold. – Janet
Be thankful for every day that you get up. Take every day as a gift and don’t look back, only look forward. Don’t hold things in, surround yourself with people who support you and let them support you! – Barbara
Buckle up bitch!! It’s going to suck, but don’t give up. – Katie
A glimpse at the 127 stories we collected at our first STORY-thon Wednesday, April 18th.
As you know, Hope Scarves shares scarves & stories with people facing cancer. Our program is growing quickly as we send about 50 Hope Scarves a week. Which means we have to collect many, many scarves & stories to replenish our collection. Survivor stories – the very heart of our work and what makes our program so special, have proven challenging to collect. And, for good reason. It’s hard to open up & remember a difficult time. Many women are worried their story won’t be “good enough” and find the idea of writing such personal words intimidating.
So, we are trying new ways to collect stories and make telling your story to Hope Scarves a meaningful, healing experience, as it is intended to be. We hope that by sharing her story each woman feels a sense of release & strength in knowing her words will lift someone else up. The STORY-thon was our first step in that direction. By creating this celebration of stories we set out to break down the barriers to storytelling and help women connect and share.
Our goal was to collect 100 survivor stories in one day through website, phone calls and walk-ins to our studio. What happened was so much more.
We joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Give a Day Week of Service. Promoting that anyone who has faced cancer could volunteer their story as a way to get involved with his push for community service. Mayor Greg Fischer stopped by to learn about our creative social entrepreneurship efforts. We even put him to work with this week’s scarf mailing. He picked out & wrapped the scarf we sent to Sue in Ohio. Of course, camera crews followed and we were on three tv stations as a result!
Volunteers worked our “call center” from 10am-5pm. 4 phones were busy continuously as we called survivors and listened to their stories. It was remarkable. Survivors were appreciative to have the chance to tell their stories to caring volunteers. For many it is just easier to have a conversation than to sit down and put it on paper. Our volunteers were moved by the stories. Some were filled with laughter. Others, tears. One volunteer, Melissa Swan, a beloved Louisville news anchor, spoke with a bubbly young woman facing breast cancer. By all accounts you would think the conversation was going to follow the presumed path of diagnosis, treatment, fear, but then remission and relief, put it behind me, etc… However, this young woman shared that she is now in palliative care. She has taken a break from treatment for brain metastasis because the side effects are debilitating. And she just wants to live a little while without pain. Melissa sat in shock as she listened to her story. Smiling and asking caring questions with the poise of a news anchor… the conversation sounded like old friends. They talked well beyond their scheduled “time slot.” When Melissa hung up the tears flowed. I have a feeling the same was true on the other end of the line. Connection, storytelling, love.
Our Board Chair, Ben, called his wife, a breast cancer survivor and recorded her story. Their story. To listed to his questions and see the compassion in the conversation was beautiful. “I remember… that was hard…” Another volunteer spoke with an 18 year old who has faced cancer since she was 7. 12 surgeries, 9 chemotherapies, 6 radiation treatments. A childhood of on-going cancer treatment. Nanette asked, “What encouragement do you have for someone else going through this?” Anna’s response, “Always stay positive. look to friends and family for encouragement. Look for the positive side of everything. That’s what I always try to do and keep a smile on your face!”
5 women stopped into our office together to share their stories. They had all worn the same scarves that began when our board member Allison faced treatment. Strangers to each other but connected through these scarves. They remembered together where they had each worn the scarves and how much it meant to know someone else had worn them first. “It’s a club no one wants to join” explained Allison. “But, when you realize you aren’t alone and that there are other women who know what you are going through it makes it a little easier.”
Our stories connect us. Help us find common ground and bring us strength.
At the end of the day I sat down, exhausted, in our empty studio. Overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who made the day a success. I sat quietly there, alone. I could feel the love and laughter hanging in the air. I felt the experiences and wisdom of the storytellers. I felt the compassion of the volunteers who listened. I felt the strength that comes with connection. In the end, that’s what we all seek – isn’t it? To feel loved and connected.
Cancer is isolating. Terrifying. We aren’t able to take away the pain and fear. But, if we create a bit of hope and connection by capturing stories and sharing them with others – we might possibly make one moment, one day, lighter.
I know we did today.
If you’d like to share your survivor story with Hope Scarves please click here!