On September 29th, I became a “Human Book!” It was a day to share my life story at the Burlington Central Library with anyone that was interested in listening. I didn’t know what to expect since I’ve never done an event like this before. Even on the drive to the library, my brain was still trying to process the fact that there may be people interested in hearing what I have to say!
My heart was still beating fast when I walked into the building. I suddenly felt a moment of concern when another thought popped into my head…what if there wasn’t anyone at all who was interested in listening! That thought quickly passed when I concluded I would just lurk and listen to the other Human Books.
Once in the greeting room I was met by the staff and my nerves began to ease. There was a sense of happiness and calm from them. They had the day well planned for me and there was nothing to worry about. The other Human Books began to roll in and the day we had all been looking forward to was now underway.
First call of duty was an interview with Cogeco TV for a program called Arts Matter. My stomach instantly did flips when it was my turn. Sitting across from Deb, the host of the program, I felt my nervous laughter coming out as we prepped for our chat. I was immediately relieved when she said I didn’t have to look straight at the camera. As odd as it sounds, I felt like I was at the Academy Awards and didn’t prepare a speech because I didn’t actually think I would win! I knew the interview was going to happen but didn’t know what they were going to ask and I didn’t mentally rehearse any responses. Needless to say, the process became simple… she asked me to tell my story. I let my thoughts roll out and it turned into the perfect summary of my life….a five minute version of my book. It’s amazing what one can accomplish on the fly!
Interview complete I was escorted to my story telling corner. The schedule of “my readers” was revealed and I was psyched to see that my day was going to be a busy one. Again, I felt a mix of emotions…I was in shock that I actually had people that wanted to talk to me and relief that I didn’t have an empty schedule.
The day was comprised of one-on-one meetings, for thirty minutes at a time, with each reader. It is amazing how fast thirty minutes can fly by. It was touching to discover as I sat with my readers that they had already read my story through the library and my blog and wanted to know more. There was a realization that I was looked at as an inspiration to them and that somehow, I was making a difference in their life.
All of the readers had incredible stories themselves as we shared the paths of our lives. I was experiencing that we all have a story to tell and strength to offer. It wasn’t just an opportunity for them, it was truly an opportunity for me to learn and grow.
The types of readers were varied. There was the runner aspiring to do triathlons who was searching for ways to keep going when it hurts. This is something I have a lot of experience in! Then there was the reader writing a book on women of inspiration and she wanted me in her book! I was honoured to know that my life story and my efforts would reach a larger audience than I had ever imagined!
My other readers were cancer survivors and those just heading into their journey with cancer. It was truly heart warming that they wanted insight from me…that somehow I might be able to help them find their way. There was one reader, whose cancer journey is about to begin and wanted to see my face in person and hear my voice. I was astonished to learn that it was my face and voice she wanted to help her through the tough days ahead. The tears welled up in my eyes hearing such a statement and knowing that I was chosen to be the symbol of strength for her!
Another cancer survivor came to ask if the fear of the cancer coming back would ever go away. I answered honestly and for me…the fear never goes away. I did say that I saw the fear as a gift and it is welcome in my life. Fear gives me a constant push to fill my life with so much more. It doesn’t sit in the forefront of my daily routine but it is there, a ‘shadow’ if you will. There is never any guarantee on how long our lives will be even without cancer so I appreciate the constant reminder. We had an incredible conversation about our survival and our personal chats with the Grim Reaper. This amazing person left me feeling very appreciated and helpful.
It was through these powerful discussions that I realized that my cancer journey had come full-circle. From the moment of diagnosis and my “you picked the wrong bitch!” attitude, I always believed that what I learned through my efforts to survive, needed to be shared. From my “Three F’s” (Fitness, Family and Friends) program to my five minute rule, or just how to find positive inner dialogue, all would be a waste of information if not given to others. It wasn’t until this Human Book experience that I realized that the articles that I wrote, my blog, the way I have openly shared my survivor status in my sports and life, was all part and parcel to my effort to ease others pain in any way that I could. It was becoming a Human Book that helped me realize that my original wave of effort has a ripple that has travelled far and wide. I wanted to help people find their true strength and know that their struggles are not theirs alone. Thanks to this day, I learned I did just that and it has changed my life forever.
Another photo from the Burlington Central Library !