By Barbara McKnight, MA, CPLP
Recently I participated in the 10th annual National Ovarian Cancer Coalition 5K walk in Phoenix. This was a special day for me as last year I watched clips on the news of the walk while I was at home recovering from my own surgery after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
So, this year, I organized a small but mighty group of walkers and raised some money for a cause I believe in. Everyone at the walk got t-shirts and survivors of Ovarian cancer got a sash to wear. The sash was like the one they give Miss America contestants except instead of the name of a state, ours said “survivor” on it. Having one of those sashes automatically made you part of an elite club. Many people I walked past either congratulated me or asked me about my story. This struck me as funny, because normally, that doesn’t happen. Just walking down the street, rarely does someone ask you about your story or congratulate you just for just still being here.
This interest and concern was contagious. First, I found that every time I passed someone wearing a sash I asked the how long ago their diagnosis was. Eventually I started asking everyone I met why they were walking. I learned a lot! Everyone was there for a different reason; some were showing their resilience, some were supporting a loved one, and some were honoring a loved one lost. Each person I spoke with had an amazing story for why they were walking that day and we were all supporting each other.
That day, our sashes were for surviving Ovarian Cancer, but we have all survived something. Whether it’s a devastating disease or loss, a stressful job, or just a rotten day… we are all survivors. It made me think what a different world it would be if we all asked each other about our stories. What have we survived? What challenges are we facing right now? What keeps us doing what we’re doing?
By asking someone else about their story we take the first step in understanding them and their experiences better. That understanding leads to empathy for their purpose and actions and can help us to adapt our perspective on the world. All it takes is remembering that we are all survivors.
We don’t all wear sashes every day, but we are all survivors and we all have a story to tell.
To learn more about my story, check out Teal – My Story