Taking The Leap – Tanessa’s Peru Odyssey

Terri Wingham is the founder and CEO of A Fresh Chapter, a non-profit whose mission is to heal the emotional scars of cancer through volunteerism, meaningful travel, and programs designed to reframe adversity and redefine what is possible.

Written by Terri Wingham | February 15, 2017

Tanessa Noll is a writer and teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. As a new resident in her small town, she was surprised by the outpouring of support she received during treatment. Tanessa learned that telling her story connected her to people who wanted to help. As a recipient of the Melissa Carroll Legacy Fund, Tanessa created a Ripple Impact plan to give back to her community. She plans to teach a writing workshop to youth, helping them find connection through their stories.

From Applying On A Whim To Peru Becoming A Reality…

With the deadline looming, I applied for A Fresh Chapter on a whim. I had no time to think about what a trip to Peru would look like. I put it out of my mind, knowing I could decide later if such an adventure was for me.

tanessa2As the application process moved along, the possibility of Peru became more real. My mind filled with doubt. I thought, I’ve never been good at asking for help. People helped me so much, while I was in treatment. I can’t ask them to send me to Peru. So many of them are going through personal struggles. How selfish of me to want to go.

Peru was a place that fascinated me. I first read about the country in an old paperback that someone left at my house. Peru seemed magical, beautiful and rich with culture and history. But as soon as I found out I was in, I started looking for a way out.

I am a stay-at-home mom. Who will watch the children? My husband is going back to school. I should be at home looking for a job.

If I fail at fundraising, I can’t afford to pay for this.

There is a writer’s workshop during this time that I’d like to go to. Maybe I should try to do that.

What if the service isn’t meaningful, and I end up doing more harm than good?

When I shared my concerns with my writers’ group, they said, “You have to go to Peru.” I countered with all of my reasons for not going, but they continued to say, “You have to go.”

My husband said, “You should go. I can handle things at home.”

“Go to Peru!” a dear friend insisted. And when she introduced me to some friends visiting from out of town, they also said I needed to go.

“But there’s a workshop,” I cried.

IMG_3769I stopped to assess why people envisioned me in Peru, when I could not envision it myself. I only thought about the obstacles, rather than how life changing the experience would be. When I got honest with myself, I knew I wanted nothing more than to heal the emotional wounds of cancer.

Friends offered to host fundraisers for me, which, in the end, I did not need. My mother-in-law promised to help take care of my boys.

My community of family and friends, along with some of their family and friends, helped me quickly reach my fundraising goals. I also received a scholarship from the Melissa Carroll Legacy Fund. Once the money was raised, it dawned on me that I was really going to do something that once seemed impossible. Not only did it take a community of people donating financially, it took a community of people to dream this dream with me. I did not need another writing workshop, I needed A Fresh Chapter. My experience in Peru changed my life and gave me plenty of stories.

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