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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Words have always been a big part of my life. During my childhood summer vacations, I read a book a day. Whenever I had to compose a personal statement or a cover letter, I discussed my affinity for words. People who know me say that I talk too much.

My background is in English and publishing. So, in the past, if I was asked to define myself, I would have said that I’m a reader, writer and editor. For years, I’ve hacked and sawed apart sentences or tied and nailed down thoughts to ensure that an author’s most important tool was sharp and effective.

Then, later on, I discovered graphic design, where a word’s spacing and typeface can aid in spreading its message because visually the word comes alive. Since this discovery, I have molded the look and meaning of words on posters and publications through graphic design.

With my wordy penchant for life, I hope to launch my words as strong and compelling forms of communication. Luckily, through the Cancer Support Community (CSC), I have a job as a Communications Coordinator that allows me to deal with all things wordy. I’m surrounded by words all day, such as when they flicker across my screen or are inked across a sheet of paper.

And, as much as I adore words, sometimes, I do take them for granted. Words will always be there for me. They’re always ready for me to learn or to teach through them. And because of this, I don’t always appreciate words the way they deserve.

For a while, I had even stopped considering how impactful words can be when they’re audible.

Last week, I traveled to Breakaway from Cancer, a collaboration between Amgen and four non-profit organizations, including the Cancer Support Community, to provide resources about cancer through an eight-day Lifestyle Festival throughout cities in California.

While at Breakaway, I physically handed over words through brochures and postcards to interested individuals. I also verbally expelled words to provide information or to answer questions about CSC.

But then, people who visited our table started to share their stories. Sometimes their words were pierced with uncertainty about a loved one’s diagnosis or cracked with the anxiety for their own diagnoses. Other times, the stories rang triumphant when explaining how cancer survivors had been in remission for many years.

A man told me about his nine-month-old daughter who was currently in remission. He spoke words of thanks for CSC’s services that provided emotional support to his family and him. I caught his grateful words and returned them to him for being so willing to speak his personal tale.

One woman collected informational items from our table for two friends who recently had been diagnosed with cancer. She said she wanted to attend all of their doctors’ appointments to act as opened ears to catch the unfamiliar words and steps about a hopeful recovery. She wanted to be a positive caregiver to her friends.

Whenever someone in remission stopped by our table, they usually offered information about their treatments and their journey, which was amazing since shared voices have the ability to instill knowledge and hope. Those in remission often wanted to get involved in our organization’s Cancer Experience Registry, which provides a method for sharing their cancer journeys to educate about what can improve for quality cancer care for all.

During my five days at Breakaway, I was amazed at the courage shown by people affected by cancer. I’m inspired to make sure the words I write, edit, and design for CSC are as loud and effective as the audible words full of inspiration, bravery, fear, hope, and peace that I gained throughout my trip.

Thank you to those who shared their words with me.

If you or a loved one is impacted by cancer, the Cancer Support Community can provide support. CSC has a national and international network of Affiliate locations, where those affected by cancer can attend free-of-charge educational programs, exercise and nutritional classes and social activities. The list of Affiliate locations can be found at cancersupportcommunity.org/find-affiliate

Or, there are professionally licensed social workers that can talk to you about your concerns or help find solutions for your cancer journey through our toll-free Helpline at 1-888-793-9355

Finally, if you want to share your experiences to help create positive changes in the cancer community, including developing cancer programs or advocating for changes in the nation’s health care system, register with the Cancer Experience Registry at: https://www.cancerexperienceregistry.org/

Collective voices can make a difference. Please continue to share your words and stories, So That No One Faces Cancer Alone®.