The Heartache of Being a Young Cancer Survivor

Today, I feel compelled to write about the heartache of being a young cancer survivor. Many might think that receiving the label of ‘cancer survivor’ brings feelings of pure elation and ultimate bliss. Don’t get me wrong; my world turned from scattered thunderstorms to warm, sunny skies. Yet, not every day is euphoric.

Some days, my heart hurts and the world feels heavy. Those are the days when I’ve lost a friend.

One of the hardest things about being a young cancer survivor is simply ‘being young’. Young people are supposed to explore the world and experience life fully, not sit in oncology wards getting pumped full of drugs. As a young cancer fighter, I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t have any friends or knowledge of other people my age going through what I was. I felt like an outcast.

Fortunately, I reached out to Young Adult Cancer Canada (a kick-ass support group!) and took to social media. I needed that feeling of togetherness. I needed familiarity. I needed my youth.

I surrounded myself with fellow young adult cancer fighters. My network of friends exploded, and it was wonderful. I met the most incredible, kind-hearted, perseverant and superhuman people in the entire world. My loneliness faded, and I finally felt at home.

In retrospect, I wish I would have realized that some of us wouldn’t make it. Some of us would pass on, and some of us would have to move on. It breaks my heart to be writing this right now, but I wish that I could have prepared myself for the heartache that I’ve experienced. The deep pain of losing a friend, again and again. It never gets easier, and it never will.

This past year, I’ve lost five dear friends.

Nicole, Justin, Kim, Danielle and Jody

Each one of these five super-humans continued to push and push through the darkness. They never ever gave up, despite the odds. I am honoured to have had the chance to connect with such empowering people.  They were truly one-of-a-kind… Nicole’s warmth, Justin’s ambition, Kim’s bright smile , Danielle’s heart of gold, and Jody’s unwavering sense of humour.

Nicole, Justin, Kim, Danielle, Jody and other friends who have gone too soon,

this is for you.

My heart goes out to your family,

they didn’t deserve to lose you so young.

My heart goes out to your friends,

of which you should still be among.

And my heart goes out to you,

because, you, you deserve more than the cards you were flung.


My light,

you are my light.

When times get hard,

I think of your fight.

You may be gone,

but you still shine bright.

I just wish you could,

come home tonight.

What brings me peace is knowing that each of you have gained your wings. Now, there is proof that you are super-humans. May you rest peacefully, and live on in all of the lives that you have touched.

My unconditional love,




Reasons to Recover

When I began dialectical behaviour therapy in February, my individual therapist asked me a question that has stuck with me since.

Why choose recovery?

This may seem like a simple question with a simple answer… “because I want to live”. But, after contemplation, I realized it wasn’t actually an easy question to answer. It was something that I needed to ponder.

Why do you want to recover? Why attend therapy three hours a week? Why do you want to spend the next six months learning and practicing new skills? Why spend the time restructuring your behaviours and emotional responses?


I think we all have different answers to this questions. We all have different reasons to choose recovery. After much consideration, I discovered my justification for recovery.

My hope is that by sharing my answer someone else may identify with me and find their own reasons to recover.

To me, recovery means being at peace with myself. It means accepting help, not losing hope and striving for a brighter day. It means practicing self care and riding myself of the toxicity in my life. It means finding love rooted deep within myself and spreading it outwards (while retaining a good amount for myself). Recovery means living life again.

So, why have I decided to recover despite the resurfacing of traumatic memories, excruciatingly tiring sessions and complete rewiring of myself?


  • I truly believe that I deserve to recover. I deserve to be at peace with myself. I deserve help, hope and a brighter day. I deserve to practice self care and remove toxicity from my life without immense guilt. I deserve to live my life again.
  • My family and friends need me. I’ve seen the agony in their eyes after telling them that I do not want to be a part of this world anymore. I’ve felt the pain that they feel. The panic as they rush to the hospital to find out if I’m okay. The horror of the unknown. The truth is, they can’t imagine this world without me. They deserve peace (just as I do). They need me to recover (just as I do).
  • My 10-pound shihpoo, Cinnamon, would wonder where I have gone. She doesn’t deserve that. She’s deserves all the cuddles, cheese and tummy rubs in the world.
  • Warm Julys. The warmth on your skin. The bright sunshine glistening on the water. The feeling that everything will be okay.
  • Crisp Octobers. The smell of apple pie. Pumpkin-carving. My birthday. Halloween. Indulging in pumpkin pie.
  • Breath-taking sunsets. The one last moment of striking colour before the darkness of the night. The kind where pictures don’t do it justice. You have to soak all of it into your memory.
  • The first snowfall of the year. The excitement. The beginning of the festive season.
  • Smiling at strangers. Hoping to make their day a little brighter. You never know the impact you can have on someone. We all need a smile sometimes.
  • The feeling of sand in between your toes. 
  • The sound of crashing waves.
  • The crunch of autumn leaves.
  • The smell after a much needed rainfall.
  • Tight hugs. Being embraced in the arms of someone you love.
  • Feeling loved. 
  • Fresh bedsheets. Enough said.
  • Your favourite scent. A candle. Incense. Perfume. Finding comfort in a familiar smell.
  • Eating your favourite meal. Something with potatoes that’s for sure.
  • ‘I thought of you’ moments. The thoughtfulness sends a shiver up my spine.
  • Singing at the top of your lungs. Whether it be country, rap, pop or rock n roll, there is so much joy in screaming the lyrics to your favourite song.
  • Dancing around your home. The only time I can bust a move without judgments.
  • Laughing until your stomach hurts. The best workout.
  • I have so much left to learn. About yourself. About others. About the world.
  • Flowers. I don’t know what we ever did to deserve flowers. Lively colours help brighten those dark days.
  • Crawling into bed after a long day. 
  • Concerts. Seeing my favourite band or singer live.
  • Naps. Rejuvenating.
  • So many places that I have yet to see. 196 countries and endless beauty in this world.
  • So many people that I have yet to meet. People who share my interests and values. Removing my go-to mask. People that I can be my complete and utter self around.
  • Being understood. Hearing ‘I get you. I have experienced something similar and I’m okay. You’ll be okay, too.’
  • Writing. Thoughts. Feelings. Memories. Let it out.
  • Reading books. The feeling of escaping to another world for a little while.
  • The calm after the storm. Literally and figuratively.
  • Forehead kisses.
  • Bonfires. The crackle of wood burning. The smell of cedar. The orange flame lighting up the dark night.
  • Art. Interpreting a piece of art work. Finding meaning in poetry. Identifying with the lyrics of a song.
  • Getting married and having little Emily’s of my own. Never giving up on the idea that true love exists.
  • Cuddling like a burrito on a winter day.
  • Eating burritos.
  • The excitement of sports. Watching the Leafs win the Stanley Cup and TFC win the MLS Cup. Or, the fact that there are so many soccer games that I have yet to play.
  • Yoga. Mastering a pose that was once viewed as impossible. Feeling all of the muscles in your body work together.
  • Inspiring others. Prove to yourself and others that recovery is possible.  
  • There is so much that I have yet to do. I could start all over again. I could learn to play an instrument. I could cut my hair. I could run a marathon. I could do whatever I wanted – if I put my mind to it.
  • Self-love.
  • Falling in love with my life.
  • Things do get better. The darkness cannot last forever.
  •  I am not alone. We have all experienced trauma. We choose to push on. We all choose recovery.
  • I am loved. Despite what my mind tries to tell me, I am loved, I am cared about and I am enough.

So, why do I choose recovery?

There isn’t one, simple reason.

Keep on shining.