Please donate to the 2019 Next Step Annual Fund and help us bring the transformative power of community, music, and mentorship to young adults living with serious illness.
Cancer had split my identity in two. There was the proud, self-assured, professional dancer, pre-cancer Shardé. Then there was the lonely, isolated post-cancer Shardé – feeling weak and useless. As a young adult, I should have been gaining my independence and thinking about so many exciting, overwhelming things from dating to my blossoming career. But with cancer riding shotgun, I found myself feeling desperately isolated with everyone passing me by.
Then I participated in Next Step’s residential Summer Campference. It was there that I found a community of my peers that shared many of my cancer experiences, and knew exactly how I felt. With these other twenty-somethings I could hug, and cry, and share really dark jokes about our cancer diagnosis. One morning at Campference, I confided to my fellow attendees that I was struggling with my new post-cancer Shardé identity. I told them about a conversation I had with my best friend back in Detroit about my struggle and how I felt like I lost so much of myself that I trusted and took pride in. The reaction I got was, “Well, we never met Shardé from before cancer – but we think THIS Shardé is really awesome.” That simple response changed me, and my path, for the rest of my life.
Then the hard work started. I had to learn to accept and love me – the “me” I’d become after my cancer diagnosis. It was within the Next Step community that I learned through everyone’s respective stories, unique, yet not dissimilar, that my personal journey with cancer would be paved by the testing of my audacity – my willingness to be bold despite the circumstances – to rebuild my self-identity and take back control of my life. The transformative community at Next Step provided the safe space and opportunity for me to not only survive, but also thrive, in the face of my diagnosis.
Cancer no longer defines me. I am now a student, a Next Step Summer Campference Director for young cancer survivors and a dance teacher in Detroit. This brings me immense pride and joy! None of this would be possible without the life-changing support of my Next Step community.
Please donate to the 2019 Next Step Annual Fund and help us bring the transformative power of community, music, and mentorship to more young adults living with serious illness.
Thank you and happy holidays.