9Robyn 1    Robyn grew up in Cloverdale BC, and was diagnosed with stage 4 Kidney cancer at 21. At the time, she was living in Vancouver, saving up to travel and live overseas, excited about her independence and life’s possibilities. Her diagnosis cast an enormous shadow on her plans, passions, and hopes for her future. Being so young, she struggled to find peers who really understood her situation and was met with a lot of well-intended positivity and denial. Unfortunately, this resulted in her feeling unacknowledged in her pain and fear.  After having her kidney removed, people expected her to live her life with new vigour and enthusiasm, when in truth she still felt afraid and unseen. When she was invited to go on camping trips or to parties she felt guilty for not wanting to join, “I really felt like there was something wrong with me.” When she moved to Vancouver Island, she found herself surrounded by people telling her that cancer was a result of not eating right or from built up resentment or from spiritual deficiency.The result was a feeling of being blamed for having cancer, and she once again felt unsupported.    Robyn described the dramatic shift in her relationship  with her mother when her mother switched from trying to just be positive to truly acknowledging and validating her pain. Robyn began to connect with people who listened and held space without trying to fix her or judge her or blame her. One of these friends had experienced cancer himself, and Robyn found relief in being close to someone who understood her experience on a deeper level. When her friend’s cancer came back and took his life, Robyn found herself understanding what it was like to be on the other side of grief, and felt empathy for the friends and family who had struggled with her illness.  Robyn believes that grief is disenfranchised in our culture, due to toxic positivity and death denial. She finds it unhelpful that we describe facing death as a battle or a war, one that you lose if you die. She described some thoughts on death, early in her illness, when she was feeling incredibly depressed and afraid…“I started to see the idea of the grim reaper as a friend. Like oh, he’s not scary, he’s someone who comes and takes people out of their torturous lives, and that’s what I felt like I was living… that was a very powerful shift for me…in a way it made me not so afraid of death because I was like – it’d be a good thing, and I know that may sound really dark, to some people it might, but I love talking about this dark stuff now, I like talking about death now… Just that there’s space for it makes me feel free to be myself, to talk about my real feelings, to talk about my journey, to not have it shoved under a rug or ignored because it makes people uncomfortable.” Moving forward, Robyn wants to be more open about her cancer and to talk about it more. “We’re all here in this life, in this crazy life, and it’s ok to lean on each other and it’s real human stuff.”