By Jonah Czerwinskyj, Cancer Support Specialist
A few weeks ago I attended this year’s digital CancerCon as a representative for Imerman Angels (IA). I was a little apprehensive going into the event as I did not know if this virtual experience would allow for the intimacy of in person communication. In an age of constant technical problems and Zoom fatigue I worried that there would not be a moment for the kind of space needed to connect AYAs with one another. Thankfully, I found I was still able to connect with a community that means so much to me.
Nearly seven years ago at the age of 27 I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. This news was impossible to believe, but with all the treatments and doctor’s appointments I had little time to really process what I was going through. Thankfully my sister had become aware of Imerman Angels via the founder, Jonny Imerman, speaking at her work. Very quickly I was connected (by my current boss, no less!) to a Mentor Angel that changed my life. He was patient, kind, and endlessly giving. He guided me through treatment after treatment and showed me what it really meant to show up for someone in their time of need. His gentle guidance inspired me to become a Mentor Angel myself and eventually quit my job to enter a field in which I could have a greater impact on my community. I returned to school to get my Masters in Social Work and when I graduated I was lucky enough to find a position open at Imerman Angels. I love that everyday I get to help people find comfort through connecting with others who have been in their shoes before. So this is how I found myself at my virtual IA booth at my first CancerCon.
Despite my initial fears I found this year’s CancerCon to be very inspiring. I was able to attend a few of the talks and breakout sessions. The one I found most meaningful dealt with life after treatment. It was deeply moving to hear other AYA cancer survivors talk about their struggles to handle the many challenges of life after cancer. It reminded me of the power of IA’s mission – to make sure no one faces cancer alone. There is so much power in connecting with others who had to overcome the same hurdles that you have faced. It helps you remember that these types of trials are difficult not because of one’s own failings, but because they are legitimately hard for anyone to handle. I was honored to be able to represent IA at CancerCon and am so very grateful that Stupid Cancer was able to put everything together during these difficult times.