Finding Hope During Difficult Moments – The Importance of Community

I just turned 45. It’s a milestone I wasn’t sure I would see. Three and a half years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t have family, close friends or anyone in my inner circle with cancer. Today, I have an entire cancer community and it is what got me through the worst time of my life.

Community is the basis of everything I do. It is the very essence of our company, The MOMS.

Now that I am a survivor, I often think about how to share my experience in a meaningful way that can help others, no matter what type of cancer they may be facing. I keep coming back to the thought that the community I was able to engage with on social media helped me during some of my toughest moments and connected me with others who were going through similar experiences. I recently realized that my cancer journey is similar to that of an athlete, which is why I’m so proud to be collaborating with seven-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics, a mom and ovarian cancer survivor, Shannon Miller. Shannon is on a mission to educate women facing ovarian cancer through her work with Our Way Forward.

Shannon has partnered with TESARO and Our Way Forward, which is a call to action that encourages women with ovarian cancer to rethink how they talk about it. The program strives to foster a community for those impacted by this disease, who can work together to navigate the physical and emotional challenges that the disease brings. 

Shannon is encouraging women, care partners, loved ones and physicians to join the Our Way Forward team. Have you ever played a sport? Or been on a team? Or coached one of your kid’s teams? Every member of a sports team needs the support of teammates cheering you on.

Our Way Forward is your stadium filled with fans. It is your gold medal performance. It is a place to learn, read and share. It is a place where everyone is rooting for you. 

We all need someone in our corner. At every level!  

When I was diagnosed with cancer I decided to share my story publicly. With The MOMS, I have shared my life, whether it was on television talking about parenting, online writing about my divorce on the Huffington Post, on my SiriusSM radio show or on social media. So how could I not also share this?  

I wrote my first story for People.com and the response was unbelievable. Thousands of people shared my story and then many went on to share theirs.  

It was like being in a stadium filled with fans rooting for me. Fans cheering me on and wanting people living with cancer to win. I had my own team, my own coaches, my managers, my kids, extended family and friends—the support generated felt like I had an entire stadium full of fans!  

I named my team, #FutureCancerSurvivor. I printed bracelets that I still wear today. There hasn’t been a day I have been without it. It’s my logo, my team uniform. I shared it all. Everything from my lumpectomy to shaving my head right before an event I was hosting with Jennifer Garner to my wigs to 6 months of chemo, 6 weeks of radiation daily. A year of immunotherapy injections. I had unique side effects. I kept sharing. Each time I shared, I gained more fans. I learned more. I started speaking to others across the country. Rooting for others. It was fans all around a cancer community…really a mini-league of its own. I always had plans to get my work done in the hours sitting during chemo. I brought my computer. What happened was shocking. I would arrive, post a picture, think about what I wanted to write and then take the next few hours while everything was dripping through my body to then respond to every single person. Every comment, every message, every text or email. Social media passed my time, cheered me up, connected me to thousands around the country. Social media saved my life during treatment.  

Once you go through cancer, it never leaves. Cancer-free for me is like being retired. Still in the game but in another way. We are here to spread messages. To help others. This is the real Pros.

What makes someone like Shannon an athlete? Obviously the practice. The drive. The determination. The passion. The coaching. The team.  

What makes someone a cancer survivor? A lot of the same things. But mostly the team and the fans.

So if you see someone sharing their story. If you think to yourself, ‘Why are they doing this?’ Not every day is a win or medal round. Sometimes you’re tackled, or you strike out or are knocked out.  

Sometimes you just feel awful. Think about it this way. They need you cheering them on. They need you rooting for them. They need that base hit or home run or gold medal. They need your help to win whatever game they are playing.

To learn more about Our Way Forward, visit www.ourwayforward.com or the Facebook page. To learn more about Shannon Miller, visit www.shannonmiller.com

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