Today’s guest blog comes from Terri Wingham, founder and executive director of A Fresh Chapter, which seeks to heal the emotional scars of cancer. In 2016, a team of Lilly Connecting Hearts Abroad ambassadors whose lives have been affected by cancer will volunteer with A Fresh Chapter in Lima, Peru.
Perhaps, like me, cancer has left a deep scar in the fabric of your life.
I was 30 years old when I received the phone call. Breast cancer. Triple negative. Grade 3 tumor. I thought my life was over. I never would have imagined that the worst day of my life could become the catalyst to a whole new chapter in my story.
A year of extensive medical treatment followed that jarring phone call. As I came to the finish line, I expected to feel grateful and ready to move forward with my life. Instead, fears of recurrence and feelings of isolation blindsided me. Some days, I didn’t want to get out of bed. This post-treatment darkness surprised and scared me, but I didn’t know what to do about it or how to turn the page and start fresh.
In search of inspiration, I signed up for a volunteer trip to South Africa with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS). While volunteering with toddlers in an under-funded daycare, I felt like—for the first time since I got sick—I could be the caregiver instead of the one who needed care. Then meeting people who had survived the hatred and pain of apartheid reminded me that struggle is universal, and that resilience in the face of extreme adversity is possible.
My experiences in South Africa helped reframe my cancer story and led to the creation of A Fresh Chapter. This organization is dedicated to healing the emotional scars of cancer for both patients and caregivers. Our programs have launched in India and South Africa, and they blend volunteering, meaningful travel and activities designed to reframe adversity and redefine what is possible.
We are thrilled to announce our expansion to Peru in 2016 in partnership with Lilly’s Connecting Hearts Abroad program.
Recently, I joined leaders from both Lilly and CCS for an exploratory trip to Lima. We visited volunteer projects in the community of Villa El Salvador, spent time with local cancer support organizations and discussed how we will weave the components of A Fresh Chapter into the fabric of our first joint program. The participants of this program will not only experience two weeks of volunteering and cultural exchange, but they will also receive the support of our dedicated A Fresh Chapter facilitation team before, during and after their trip.
As A Fresh Chapter builds a foundation for our partnership with Lilly, I am excited about the life-changing experiences ahead. Lilly’s focus on uniting caring and discovery to make life better for people around the world is in perfect alignment with A Fresh Chapter’s work. Together we will transform the pain and adversity of cancer into an opportunity for renewed purpose, fresh connections and meaningful possibilities.