This week, I wanted to write a post, reflecting on an experience that I had last February. I had no idea that this experience was going to impact my life so much. For this experience, I am very thankful.
Last February, I went on a church retreat called search. At this retreat, I spent a weekend reflecting on my relationship with God, and meeting new friends. This was my favorite retreat because each person that goes has a unique experience. Here’s my experience.
Life Before Search
When 2012 began, I was coming of one of the toughest years of my life. My dad became really sick, and had several surgeries related to problems with our family’s disease. That was the first time I had to deal with my dad having major surgery while I was away from home. I’m not going to lie, I was really scared. In fact, I was terrified that I would face a similar situation with my disease someday.
I have always been Catholic, but I had been distant from God for the past few years. I was very busy in high school, and didn’t make much time for God outside of attending Mass on Sundays.
When my dad got really sick. I started questioning God and doubting my future. It was really scary because I knew that my thoughts and feelings were not the “Alyssa” that I knew.
On the day that my dad had to have the first of many surgeries, God reached out to me in a way that I will never forget. One of the hardest days of my life was suddenly filled with hope. I chose to keep fighting my disease.
From that day, I decided to repair my relationship with God. I started going to Mass at the Newman Center of my college, and I made a lot of new friends that I will never forget.
My Search Experience
I went to search because my friends told me it would be fun. Search weekend was filled with activities, talks, and discussions that helped me reconnect with God. Little did I know, the retreat would change my life!
From this retreat, I learned many new things about myself. I felt that God wanted me to be proud of the challenges I have overcome with my disease. Many of my friends shared their stories that weekend, and it helped me realize that I am never alone.
After going to search, I wanted to strengthen my relationship with God. I also was inspired to share my story. At first I was unsure of sharing my story, because my disease wasn’t something that I talked about very openly. My friends knew that I had my disease, but they didn’t know about my experiences or the impact my disease has had on my life. Sharing my story was like stepping out of my comfort zone.
Life After Search
For the first couple of months after the retreat, I thought about sharing my story. But I did not know how or what I would say. In May, I got my first opportunity to share my story in a positive psychology class that I was taking. Shortly after, I wrote my first blog post. Then I decided to write a memoir.
Since I started sharing my story, I have received many opportunities to raise awareness for rare diseases, met many inspiring people, and have reflected on the challenges that I have faced and overcome.
Search was the start of my journey to self-discovery. In the past year, my life has changed so much. After spending this past summer writing my memoir, and reflecting on my experiences I have a new appreciation for everything that my family and I have been through. From writing, I have been able to make meaning from my experiences and accept the fact that I have Gardner’s Syndrome. My perspective has changed and now I see my disease as a blessing in disguise. My experiences this past year have helped me find my passion and has connected me with others who share the same passion and vision for the future of hereditary colon cancer diseases.
In this post, I also wanted to take the time to thank a group of people who have helped make some of this story possible. I am very thankful for everyone that I have met through the Newman Center of WWU. I am thankful for your friendship, and support over the past couple of years. Thank you for helping make my college experience memorable and for the impact that you all have had on my life. I can’t thank you enough!
I wrote this prayer for you all:
I pray that you find hope in trying times,
gaining wisdom from the challenges you face.
Remember that God will be there for you anytime, anyplace.
In times of uncertainty,
may your mind stay clear,
and always remember that God is near.
In times of frustration,
I pray you find patience.
From your studies I pray
that you will gain new insight.
For your families I pray
that you will keep in touch,
no matter the distance.
I pray that you will find love
wherever you go.
But always remember that God is in tow.
May every person you meet see your compassion.
For everyone has a story,
and you may not know it yet.
But your stories may show,
that you are connected beyond ways which you already know.
As time passes by,
May you live in the moment.
Thanking God for your opportunities,
memories, and blessings.