First, cancer took the color out of my life. My days became a draining parade of doctors’ visits, arguing about medical bills, and doing grunt work to pay them. Worrying about my future, whether the cancer would come back. Wondering if my identity was now “cancer girl.” Then I arrived in India. Everything was different. Brilliant with color, filled with strange sounds and smells. And then there were the other Fresh Chapter tribe members. I thought I was allergic to groups, then I found myself a member of this amazing family, new friends who had no trouble seeing the new me, because they didn’t know the old, and weren’t burdened by expectations or history. I could be myself, figure out who that person now is. And I found a way to connect again.
And that carried forward into my volunteer placement. I wasn’t sure I was up to teaching English to a group of kids, to handling a classroom, to creating fun ways to learn. It seemed an impossible task, not to mention that I was sure I’d feel like a dork. Then I asked the students to tell me a little about themselves, and what they want to be in the future. They couldn’t. It broke my heart. But by the end of our two weeks, they were proudly standing before the group, stating their goals. And they all had dreams. My hope is that I helped them live into those dreams, and that something of what I tried to convey stuck. I fell in love with each one of them. They changed me forever.
And, most importantly, there were entire days where I did not think about cancer once. My identity is so much more than a disease. I had forgotten that. And now I’m alive, and colorful, again. That would never have happened without A Fresh Chapter and the Melissa Carroll Legacy Fund.