Finding my tribe through GRYT Health.

So many of us young adult cancer thrivers struggle to find our tribe. I spent a lot of my time after being diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2013 at the age of 33, tiptoeing around my so called “friends” to find a group of people among whom I could be unconditionally loved and accepted. Maybe I was expecting too much of my friends… Most of them dropped like flies, thinking maybe my cancer was contagious, I was getting divorced and my whole world was falling apart.

I have serious abandonment issues owing to my colorful childhood. My parents were in a violent relationship, I was destined to be a dragon slayer at 9. It was my quest at that time (to date) to protect my little 5-year-old brother from my dad’s temper. I was the apple of my dad’s eye and could do no wrong. My mother contemplated and tried to commit suicide a couple of times. It was always me rushing to get the neighborhood doctor and taking her, with the help of our neighbors, to the nursing home a block away. You cannot imagine what that does to a child’s mind.

Anyways, back to cancer, another upheaval in my life. Cancer just had terrible timing. I got through the multiple surgeries, chemo and immunotherapy (which let me tell you, sucked big time). Bladder cancer at 33, I am not a man or a smoker, did not drink, never did drugs… generally had a very boring life. Doctors took almost a year to figure out it was cancer.

I tried to find my tribe, but no matter what I tried, I always felt like the odd duck swimming with swans, who all seemed to enjoy a sense of belonging I never quite felt.

Fast forward to 2017… July- my 6-month cystoscope (if this came back clear I would be in remission and go on to yearly cystoscopes and biopsies) yyyyaaaayyy!!!! But the YAAAYY, soon changed to a NAAY!! As the scope entered my bladder, right there was a fuzzy looking sea anemone waving its fingers to me, mocking me “Hello, I am back”.

My urologist and I simultaneously went “oh shit!!!”. Yes, it was a very shitty feeling and I was in no mood to be proper or apologize. I was alone and feeling pretty f**ked up mentally. I do apologize, but since getting cancer, my French has increased.

My kids were out of town, I had no one around me. I felt like I was in an abyss…it’s a bad, bad place. I really couldn’t function that week, it was like I was on autopilot, which was threatening to seriously malfunction.

One evening, bored and scared out of my wits, I scrolled through my twitter feed. I always followed Stupid Cancer, so seeing them in my feed was normal. I saw their tweet about the APP which sparked a bit of light in my already dark and twisty heart.

I think that’s the best app I have downloaded. That was my saving grace. I logged on initially, felt totally out of place with the 20 somethings on there, got quiet for a while then found my now GRYT BFF’s.

Slowly and steadily we grew close, a tight knit group now who talk, whine, scream, shout all times of the day every day. We found our safe space where we don’t care about what we say, we do not have to think twice, we don’t worry about talking about the constant fatigue we feel, we compare how cute our doctors and nurses are (hahahahhaha), and we talk a lot about food. Actually, our world revolves around food most days.

These wonderful women helped me find myself out of the abyss and realize I am not alone. I am loved, I am wanted and cancer does not control me. I control the big dreaded C.

We finally met each other at CancerCon in Denver this year. We hugged, cried and were totally silly. We also got ourselves matching tattoos that symbolize our cancer journey. Buddhist Unalome, it represents the no mud, no lotus theory. Mud being cancer and chemo, lotus being our remission when we bloom out of this cancer that’s trying to gnaw away at our bodies and souls.

I am ecstatic to find these amazing individuals who make up my tribe:

Megan who is as beautiful outside as she is inside… my human panic room.

Ellis my crazy vegan cinnamon roll eating mad eclectic extreme runner… my inspiration to get out of bed each day.

Liza the sweet little girl who is amazing.

CJ a wonderful child whose heart has no bottom, I really adore this kid.

and I continue to meet lovely people like Gina, Susan, and Brandie our Con-Momma. Curtis who has the same cancer as me, bladder cancer.

Not to forget both the Davids, ie with the guns and the one with Milkshake (his cat).

And of course, the whole GRYT team who we got to meet…. Shelley, Jess, Aerial, and Mallory of Lacuna Loft.

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