Authored By: Joni Allred
After driving seven hours through a mostly empty land, we drove into the parking lot ready to be free of our vehicular prison. As we pulled up, we saw a man and woman bringing in their luggage. They both gave us a very friendly wave with big smiles on their faces. We had never met these people before and yet they greeted us as if we were old friends. Why would complete strangers be so happy to see us? Because we share a common path.
When my husband and mother-in-law were both diagnosed with brain tumors only weeks apart, I felt like our family was unique in our trials. Cancer seemed to be picking on our family. But after our LFS diagnosis, we learned that we had actually joined a club of people where cancer is intertwined with the club members’ lives. It is a club you wouldn’t want to join, but once you are in it, you are happy to find others that know how you feel.
As we entered the lodge to sign in, I was greeted with a big hug from a Facebook friend. It was so fun to finally meet in person. Then we were off to find our cabin. We politely met our cabin mates and chose our bunks. Then it was off to dinner. As we ate, we made introductions to others and learned a few names. As I sat eating my meal, I looked around at these new faces and wondered their journey. When meeting someone new, I didn’t want to say, “Nice to meet you. Do you have LFS? Do you have cancer?” Not sure the protocol of finding out people’s history, so instead, there were the formal introductions of, “Where are you from? Who are you here with?” But I wanted to know so much more.
After dinner, we headed back to our cabin. A new family had showed up to our cabin so again we made the formal introductions and made polite conversation. After a little while, one person said, “So who has LFS in your family.” I thought, “Finally, let’s talk!” So us three couples sat and shared our stories as the children ran around the cabin and played. We talked of the cancers each family had experienced, when everyone was diagnosed, and what their experiences have been with screenings.
After staying up too late visiting, we finally climbed up into our comfortable bunk beds and turned out the light. I went to bed feeling so happy. I felt like we had just made friendships that were not on the surface, not superficial, but that were deep, connected. Why? Because we understood each other. We could talk freely about family members lost. We could talk freely about fears and frustrations. We had found a group who understood us and that opens the doors to friendship and connection. I went to bed looking forward to who I would met the next day. My goal is to meet every person here. I hope to reach that goal because these are amazing people with amazing stories.