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vul·ner·a·ble ˈvəln(ə)rəb(ə)l/

Run for the hills. Someone said Vulnerability!

Why does one word have such power?!

What does it even mean? uses the following definition: 1.capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon; to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.; 3.(of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend.

Well no wonder! So why on Earth would I choose to right a post AND title it with such a scary word..............

Let's start here

I absolutely love being an advocate. I love meeting others who share my passion. I love that I am able to be an advocate. I love the people I am able to meet and the bonds formed as a result. But if I am being honest, I have been struggling for a while. Struggling to maintain. Being an advocate for a disease can be difficult. There are expectations that come along with it. You give all of yourself in an effort to make a difference. You work hard spreading awareness in your community. You make friends. You build relationships, or try to, with community leaders. You set goals that you may not always meet. You somehow become the face of a disease that tried to kill you. You have determination and drive to make a difference. And you do it with love in your heart and a smile on your face.

But sometimes you lose a little bit of pep. Friends pass away. You develop survivors guilt. You pick yourself back up but then it seems as though it is a cycle {a hampster in a wheel}. No one talks about how to cope with being an advocate leader when there is loss involved. What happens when the person leading the charge tires? Who supports the advocate? How do you know when enough is enough and its time to walk away? Is passion enough?

Insert: heavy breathing, heart beating fast and sweaty palms. Better yet, insert: A Fresh Chapter's Re-Fresh Experience for Cancer Advocates.

A Fresh Chapter is a non-profit dedicated to healing the emotional scars of cancer. They combine domestic or international volunteerism with programs designed to re-frame adversity, foster connections, and promote personal growth and development. Their vision is a world where your experiences with cancer empower you to seek new purpose and possibility in your life.

I heard about the Re-Fresh Experience for Cancer Advocates and it seemed like it was exactly what I needed. It was an opportunity to connect with other advocate leaders from all over the country facing some of the same challenges as me. Each of us with a different background. Different experiences with {k}ancer. And different stories to tell.

OK so what does all this have to do with that big, icky, scary word?


Welllllll, in order for us to address the burning questions that brought each of us together and what we hoped to get out of the experience, we needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We had to get vulnerable. Sounds frightening, I know.

Together, we stepped outside of ourselves and volunteered at GLIDE. GLIDE's mission is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization. GLIDE's meal program is the only one in San Francisco to provide 3 nutritious meals a day, 364 days a year, to the city's poor, homeless and hungry.

Additionally, we learned the art of African Drumming through

DRUMMM Rhythmic Events. I have been in many drumming circles but never learned the art behind it. It was a fun and creative way to release emotional baggage through a series of beats.

Where did we go from here...

We spent most of the week exploring ourselves, listening to one another...truly listening in a relaxing and beautiful setting, at the Ralston White Retreat Center.

Terri, the founder of A Fresh Chapter, does a really great job creating a safe place for sharing. And I love that the programs she creates are often times centered around what she needs too. So she is right in there with you...sharing...listening...crying...laughing.

Our vulnerability is sometimes rewarded by little surprises. Like the night we all walked the boardwalk along the Pacific coast. We had no idea where we were going and I would imagine it was a difficult task to keep 16 excited and creative individuals on track to our destination....although, leaving behind those who were sidetracked by bunny rabbits...I mean who has not seen a bunny rabbit? (I may or may not have been in the bunny group). But the ultimate surprise paid off as we were all gathered together around a fire pit laughing and carrying on when just over a hill, in perfect view of our group, a bagpiper emerged. We were at the world-renowned, Pebble Beach Golf Course listening to a bagpiper at sunset.

The week wrapped sending each of us home. And just as a cocoon provides a trans-formative experience for a butterfly, the Re-Fresh experience gave each of us the opportunity to delve into our purpose and meaning; allowing each of us to emerge renewed and well.....refreshed.

Being vulnerable is scary. But it is also healing. With vulnerability, comes freedom. I encourage you to look at this experience if you find yourself asking some of the questions I was asking. Look into other programs A Fresh Chapter offers. You will learn so much about yourself, meet amazing people and walk away with life-changing experiences.

My new tribe

**photo credit for the bagpiper

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