Each year Pink Arrow Pride publishes Perseverance Stories. Members of the community write about their story, their journey facing cancer themselves or walking alongside a spouse or child. However, the written word does not always flow freely. I had the experience of writing two Perseverance Stories. It was an honor to be able to do so. It was also humbling.
As spring comes to an end, representatives from Pink Arrow seek out individuals who are willing to share their story. Over the course of four weeks, two people write about their cancer journey and one Gilda’s Club member is represented, writing about dealing with cancer or grief. While cancer has touched the lives of many, not everyone is comfortable sharing details, which are often emotional. However, some are willing to write. Perhaps it’s part of the healing process. For some they want to educate, influence, and let others who are survivors or going through treatment know they are not alone.
Then there are the photos. Heather Eveland has volunteered her time taking photos for everyone who writes a story last year and this year. Most of the time, these photos are of families, including those who have supported the cancer patient/survivor. Heather doesn’t just making an appointment to show up and snap a few photos and be on her way. She’s interested in learning about who she will capture. She wants to know a bit about what cancer has done to an individual and family. She’s an invested volunteer. And I’ve happily been able to get to know her over the past year, after both going up in a helicopter to take photos of the pink arrow made by Lowell Area School students on the football field.
Making New Acquaintances
This year, two people who were interested in sharing their story needed help putting things into words. I was asked if I would write their story on their behalf. I’ve written about people, events, businesses, and more, but this felt like a more important task in some way. I had to write about someone and make sure they are okay with how they are being portrayed. I wanted to make sure I captured them, their story, and essence as if they were telling their tale in their own words.
I met with Dale and Lynda Spitler first. I had heard about Dale from a previous article I wrote about North Star Antiques, knowing he has a vendor area there, but I had never met him. I’m not an outgoing, walk up to people I don’t know and strike up a conversation type of person. But I am a natural listener so I knew I could listen to a story and from that conversation write something.
Sitting in the Spitler home talking with them about how they both were given a cancer diagnosis within months of each other was an experience. During the brief time I spent with them, I learned a lot. I felt like I had met people I’d want to acknowledge if I ran into them at a store. I made a new connection, making the community of Lowell larger for me in the sense of who I know, but reinforcing that small town feel people here refer to quite a bit.
When I met with the Spitlers, Heather was also available at the time to take photos. I was able to see Heather in action, learning herself about the Spitler’s story. She also has a way with getting those being photographed to feel at ease. When it comes to kids, she’s able to get down and talk to them on their level, sparking natural smiles, if even for a second. It’s just long enough to click the shutter.
There are many similarities when talking with people who have experienced cancer treatments. There’s “chemo brain” and feeling fried after radiation. Many experience sheer exhaustion both physically and mentally. I suppose that’s how cancer patients are able to bond over the shared experiences.
And yet, with so many similarities, each individual has a unique story. I also met with Erin Rogers to learn about her cancer journey. She’s another person in the community I know and would greet if our paths crossed. Meeting with just two people, and reading all of this year’s Perseverance Stories, parts of the beginning, middle, and continuing chapters are the same while intricacies make the stories unique. I was thanked by those who I wrote for, yet I also feel thankful to them for allowing me to speak on their behalf when it comes to such a personal story.
Tell Your Story and Listen to Others Tell Their Story
While Perseverance Stories for this year have come to an end, they are still being lived out by many in the community. Strangers you see while you’re out may be going through a cancer journey that you’re not aware of. And the sad truth is, cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to males and females of all ages.
It’s true that unless you experience something it’s difficult to really understand what a situation or event is really like. But hopefully telling your story, whether it’s about having cancer, being adopted, being the oldest kid in the family, having purple hair, traveling abroad, or whatever it is you have to tell, someone else will have a better understanding. And you never know, in telling your story and listening to others tell theirs, you may learn something about someone else as well as yourself.
Click here for a look back at Perseverance Stories from this year and last year.