The Value of Community During Cancer

This was written by You Can Connect ambassador Anastasia Attia. To see more from Anna, head to You Can Connect today.

Chrisy is my dear sister who was diagnosed at the age of 17 in 2010 with rhabdomyosarcoma (a very very rare type of cancer). At the time of her diagnosis she was in year 12 and I was in year 10. As we were both young, it was very hard to comprehend what cancer is and how fast it could ruin the human body. Slowly we started to learn everything from the moment Chrisy got her scans back and the results were negative.

It was a tough journey to get through, but Chrisy was very strong from day 1. Her strength and faith was very contagious and she would always have a beautiful brave smile on her face despite what she was going through.

Being two years apart meant that we had mutual friends and we basically did everything together – which I’m truly thankful for.

Chrisy and I were so blessed to be a part of two very special communities – the YouCan community and our church community. YouCan was a very special community to us where we were able to connect with people going through the same thing.  At the start of Chrisy’s cancer journey it was hard to even start a conversation about cancer and what was going on but as we met this community the word ‘cancer’ became so normal.

We would go to the events organised by the Sony Foundation and meet other young patients with cancer. This was very special as we got to share stories and experiences with each other while at the same time have so much fun. It was great to speak to someone who could understand what it’s like to be on treatment, to be in hospital or to have someone in the family going through cancer.

Our church group was the other type of community that made a huge impact on the journey, especially when Chrisy was in hospital. It was hard seeing her being treated in an adult ward surrounded with dull walls and elderly patients, but when her friends came to visit the vibe changed. They used to come visit all the time and do various activities such as playing some games, watching a movie, or even just chilling and talking with her. They were (and still are) always there for both Chrisy and I.

I just had a few tips that I wanted to share:

  • Whether you are a fighter, survivor or carer I think it;s so important to have a connection with someone as they are the ones who will support you and encourage you to keep going through your journey. They will always be there for you whenever you need them.
  • Don’t ever be afraid to reach out and talk about how you feel. I know some people who aren’t comfortable reaching out to someone going through cancer too, and that is fine but you need to have and build your support network with your close friends and off course your family as they are the ones who are by your side.
  • Be courageous to speak up and talk about your experiences. You never know…what you say can make a big difference to someone else.

Till today, these networks/communities are still very close to my heart. If you have a sibling going through cancer or know someone please feel free to reach out to me for a chat or if you have any questions.