When you think of a support group for young adults with cancer, you probably just envision a bunch of people in a circle talking about treatments and life expectancy. I'll tell you now that that is not how any retreat or conference works, it is so much more than merely that. It helps create friendships and connections that are so different from your typical ones. There's something deeper in the relationships that you make while attending a YACC event. And, yesterday that helped save someone's life.
I'm not going to say anything specific because of several reasons, but I think people need to understand both that it's okay to have dark feelings, and to also know there's a couple ideas that you can do to help friends that are away.
Yesterday hubby and I had taken all the children to grandparents' houses for the night (whooo! We get to sleep in!), and I received a message asking if I was not busy by any chance. A friend was trying to reach me to let me know our mutual YACC friend had delved into a dark place and refused to look for help as much as they had begged them to call - they wanted to end it all, they didn't see any point in living. I told my husband I had to go call the friend, he knew who they were, soon I was on the phone with them. They didn't want to deal with the daily pain anymore, they were dealing with so much and it was weighing down their soul. I didn't know how to deal with this, I'm not a trained crisis counselor, I'm just their friend, thousands and thousands of kilometers from them. I had a heartbreaking moment of a thought of finding out that this friend was gone, like so many others that we had lost recently, and I said the only words I could think of. "I'm selfish, I want to keep you here. It's okay to have bad thoughts, it's okay to be tired of the pain, but I don't want to lose you. Please call the crisis line! Promise me you'll call them when we hang up. I'm selfish and I want you here." They agreed and promised they would.
When I spoke to the first friend that had messaged me about the our friend, it didn't consol them at all that they had promised. They had told them they would call crisis line. Our next thought was who could get to them so they had someone physically with them. We think of two people, one that wasn't close enough to physically go there but that they are close to so a phone call would probably go a long way, and another that could probably be there in half an hour, someone that is very loving and that could give support in-person. We contact the latter to get that ball rolling, the sooner someone is with the "darkened" YACCer, the better. When contacting the first person mentioned, they are amazingly near the YACCer even though they're not normally within driving distance. They would first call though, see if that can help in any way. When they have no response to the call, my heart sunk, and they said they were turning around immediately to go to the YACCer's house.
Still terrified that something would happen before the other two arrived, I texted a connection to the YACC office. They offered to call and talk with the YACCer. Right now, keeping them busy and in contact until someone showed up in person was the best we could do. And, the more people contacting them, the more they knew we loved them.
Things went amazingly well after that. The friend from the office was on the phone with them until one person arrived, and had found out the YACCer did finally contact the crisis line. They aren't normally this darkened, but it happened, and they were at risk of spiraling downward to the point of no return. The second friend showed up and this gave the first arriving on the ability to be able to leave to reach work on time, but not before letting the YACCer know that they would be putting a lot more effort into making it out their way from now on. That awesome friend that had arrived stayed with them for a long time. The YACCer finally was able to eat and knew the crisis line was sending a counselor to see them soon.
Many will read this and think, that wasn't YACC, why would you say that YACC saved someone's life? Well, everyone mentioned, other than the one at the office, was a person that had or has cancer and the only reason we know each other, the only reason we had each other's phone numbers and ability to message each other was because we met through YACC. If we had not known each other, if we didn't all know that YACCer, they might not have seen today. The world would be that much darker for losing their light in such a tragic way. Our friend is alive and knows they are loved. That is all thanks to the connection YACC has given us. So, yes, I say, "YACC saved a life, yesterday."