If you would have told me that in my lifetime I would join a group of people that come from all over the country, of varying ages, with different family backgrounds, opposing political views, contrasting views on religion, and even very different ethnicity, life experiences and definitions of “fun,” – and then told me that after spending a weekend with this group I’d be mildly-depressed after heading home and separating from these people, I might have not believed you.
But that indeed is what’s happened.
Modeling for the 2009 Colondar was an experience that changed my life. At the risk of sounding too cliche and cheesy, it really, really did. But the amazing thing is that I didn’t even realize it at the time. I walked into the home of the McMaster’s in May 0f 2008 as a 7-year cancer survivor. Sure, I’d been diagnosed when I was 17 and had a crazy story to tell, but I was kind of “over it.” I was excited at the opportunity to participate in the calendar, but strived all week to relate to the other 11 people who were sharing their stories of surgeries, treatments, post-treatment, emotional issues, family issues and the other myriad of problems that come with colon cancer. I could relate, but only to a point. I had been diagnosed so young and was so far removed from it. I took it all in that weekend and went home a little shell-shocked. It’s like a door that had been closed was suddenly reopened, and I was faced with thinking about my cancer once again.
I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing until in Dec. of 08 when a routine colonoscopy found those little annoying polyps growing once again. You know the story… surgery, second diagnosis, genetic testing…. the past year of my life. While it’s been no cake walk to walk through cancer once again, this experience has been different this time thanks to my experience with the Colondar, and my several little “colon angels” who’ve helped me through this process.
Jon, Mr. February, was there from the start and has been my coach through it all. He also has had the same procedure I had and lives with an “itty bitty” colon. He helped me before, during and after surgery, and still keeps tabs on me to this day, encouraging me that what I still face a year later is normal. Trish, Miss March and Karen, Miss December, have been two pillars of inspiration as they too faced another diagnosis of cancer since we met in 2008, both of breast cancer. To see them gracefully battle and make it through another cancer (and still find times to laugh!) has also given me the strength to keep going. Libby, Miss January, has been my best buddy through this all and such a dear friend. She’s my roommate and my girlfriend who’s in my same age range, and been such a blessing to have as we figure out how to live as 20-something colon cancer survivors. And Erika, the yearly cover girl, means so much to me I can’t even explain. We were diagnosed only a few months from each other, her at age 22 and me at age 17, in 2001. We’re two people who really “know” what it was, and is, like for one another and strangely enough continue to be in sync with the different seasons and issues of cancer we face. And these are only a few of them. I’m daily inspired by my other ’09 buds: new-mom Allison, Doug, Jaimie (the guy lives with a J-pouch!) Greg & Todd (stage 4 survivors!), Shaye and Terri – they are all so near and dear to me.
The Colondar network has been a life-saver and a game-changer for me. That’s why this past weekend when the first-ever Colondar Models Reunion was planned, I knew I had to go no matter the time, location nor sacrifice. And I am so thankful I did. I met up with several old friends, and made many new ones as I was introduced to Karen from ’06, Dean from ’07, Becca from’08 and Evelyn from ’10. I spent time in Vermont all week with the former models, and then traveled to Lake George in upstate New York once again to meet up with the Colon Club crew that was working the shoot, as well as the new host of 2011 models.
I had an absolutely amazing and incredible time. Taking in the beauty of Vermont while spending time among people who really “get it” when it comes to life as a colon cancer survivor was exactly what I’ve needed to help heal my heart and fight the emotional battle with cancer. It helped me realize how much of my day-to-day still revolves around the fact that I had colon cancer, and that while I might feel alone at home, I’m not alone completely in it in the world. It helped me take a much-needed step toward addressing the repressed feelings I’ve had about this second diagnosis and begin to work through them. It made me want to keep fighting off some of the negative pressures cancer puts on me, and gave me a support network of people who can relate and work through this with me. It brought out sadness and sorrow at our situation, yet hope and joy that we’d made it and that we’re together. It motivated me to keep going.
I’ve used many words to explain the significance of our group and the impact this past weekend had on my life. And while I could keep going on and on, I’ll let the pictures explain the rest. Thank you to all of my Colondar family for an unforgettable experience, and I cannot wait to see you all again…
Entry filed under: Colon Stories. Tags: colon angels, colon cancer at 17, colon cancer survivors, colon surgery, colondar, colondar reunion, colonoscopy, j pouch, Lake George, stage 4 colon cancer survivors, Vermont.