Today my Facebook feed is full of photos synched from Instagram, photos full of 12 new individuals who I hugged once this week, some of them twice, yet now consider family.
The photo shoot for The Colon Club's Colondar 2.0 just wrapped up and a new group of young colorectal cancer survivors can now call themselves "Colondar models." As they just learned, the photo shoot is about so much more than getting hair and makeup done to vulnerably show scars under photographer Mark McCarty's bright lights. It's an experience where it's safe to talk about how much you poop each day, or how hard it was to give up fertility in order to save your life.
In years past I've worked the photo shoot, writing the stories of the twelve models featured in our publications. But this year, I stepped away. Between a new job, my baby girl's dance recital and other prior commitments, I couldn't help out as "staff" of the photo shoot any longer. Fortunately my schedule worked out to stop in and meet the models, share opportunities to connect within the colon cancer community and welcome them to the Colondar family as a former model and board member. But after my speech was over, I packed up and headed home.
I'm not the only one who's made the transition -- two important women who led the nonprofit with out-of-the-box ideas for over a decade were also not around. Molly McMaster, co-founder of The Colon Club and Erika Bilger, the stage IV survivor who came up with the idea for a calendar showing off young survivor's scars, were both at home with their families this week. These two Colon Club "legends" have fully transitioned the organization into the hands of new leaders who're ready to continue their great work.
As hard as it was to step down and let others step up this week, I look at Molly and Erika and realize that I'm following in their footsteps once again. I'm just as inspired by them today as I was the night I came across a crazy calendar featuring a lot of other people like me. Both diagnosed in their twenties and still in remission well into their thirties, they give me hope. They show this new leg of survivorship where it's OK that the focus gets back to jobs, kids, husbands and every day life. Cancer is still a part of their story, but it's not their every moment like it used to be. And although I work in colorectal cancer full-time, I feel like I've come to a similar place.
When I walked out of the photo shoot this year, knowing that the life-changing experiences would soon take place amongst the new models and staff, it was hard to actually get in my car and leave. Stepping away is never easy.
But looking at the photos today and seeing the new faces of staff members who fill the gaps that Molly, Erika and myself left fills me up in a new way. Inspiration is alive in the new faces of those who modeled to represent young colorectal cancer, and the staff members who just put in hours of volunteer work to make their stories heard.
I can only hope that this leg of survivorship that's led some of us to step away radiates a similar inspiration.