Finding someone who actually understands what you are going through is not always as easy as it would seem. I have people come up to me saying that they understand what I’m going through, and I ask, “Oh, what kind of cancer did you have?” And that’s when they usually respond that they have never had cancer. To which I respond, “Then you don’t understand.”
It’s even harder though to find someone who can relate to your child as someone who has seen their parent battle/survive cancer/ My father passed away from cancer a few years ago, so I understand as an adult. But now that i’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, my son is now in that position at age 13.
When I was first diagnosed last summer, I had brought home some pamphlets with me on “How to Tell Your Child You Have Cancer” to give to my son Henry after I told him the news. He loves to read, and I figured it would help answer questions that maybe he didn’t want to ask me. However, he came to me later and said that none of the pamphlets really explained anything at all.
In the midst of me trying to figure out what I needed to fight this battle I was still concerned about Henry. He had encountered some issues when he decided to grow his hair out for Locks of Love right after I had donated mine when I started chemo treatments. Some of the kids at school gave him grief for growing it out. But, in the end, he had two 10.5 inches of hair to donate.
Still a lot of his friends at school had no idea how to relate to him. I had a hard time finding ways to relate to Henry sometimes too-what I am supposed to do with a thirteen year old boy? It wasn’t until one day at Cancer Navigators that I finally found an answer within the folds of a brochure.
The people at Cancer Navigators had already basically adopted me with everything going on in my life to help take care of me. While I was there, they suggested that Summit Quest would be a good place for Henry to go. They knew that he liked outdoor sports, and they urged me to get in contact with the director.
So, I decided to get in contact with Summit Quest. After talking with the director on the phone, I set up a time to meet with William in person. When we arrived we were welcomed by a group of volunteers, which I was not expecting. I had pressumed that William just ran the whole thing on his own, but that was not the case. Everyone there was so welcoming that it felt like family.
Henry fit in just like a piece of the puzzle. We have gone lowling and mountain biking with the group so far, was well as participated in the meetings and such at the headquarters. Ther are also plans to go kayaking soon, and to maybe even have a camping trip later on this year. But Henry just enjoys doing everything-it is fun, and they know how her feels which makes a world of difference. I feel comfortable knowing that he finally has an outlet with people who do understand and who do connect on his level.
Summit Quest has even helped us out in another way as well. At one point, William had asked me if there was anything that they could do for me. I’m not normally the type of person who asks for help, but I was going through chemo treatments at the time and had been really off-balance. So, two volunteers came out and helped Henry build a handrail on our porch so that I could safely use the stairs. They let him measure, dig the posts, use the pull saw…and it is still up and standing.
It is also so great that he has a connection with a group of kids that are dealing with the same things that he is. There are boys and girls of all ages and they all get along so well. You hardly ever hear any fussing or arguments when they all get together.
Being a part of Summit Quest has been so beneficial to Henry. Having this group that is basically like a family…they are always doing something fun, always smiling, and are always in touch…and you feel so connected. I know that my son can talk to anyone there and that they will interact with him on his level…and they’re not getting paid and they want to be there.
Knowing that someone else out there in the world understand what you are going through helps when you are struggling with any situation. Knowing that there is a whole group of people who understand and who are there for you when you are struggling makes you feel secure and supported. And that is exactly what everyone at Summit Quest has given my son.
-As Told to Amber Slyter, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.