“…the thing about cancer is, it’s the club you didn’t want to join”
We host Organizer Lunches regularly at Meetup HQ. It’s a time for us to come together as a company and a community to share a meal and swap stories with local Meetup organizers.
At our most recent lunch, we met Mina Okpi who runs the Young Adult Cancer Collective in New York City, a Meetup group for Millenials with cancer.
She was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2015, and her life changed overnight. Her health deteriorated, she felt isolated, and she withdrew from her friends. She sought out traditional support groups, but they were often in hospital settings, served an older age group, and did not meet her needs.
She knew something needed to change, “if you can’t get yourself out of bed every day, you are not going to do as well with your treatment.” So she started a Meetup specifically focused on Millenials, and found members who were going through the same sense of isolation from their healthy peers.
“When people come out, you get the sense there are things they’ve bottled up for so long. It’s a non-traditional support group that focuses support through fun, bite-sized and manageable activities. It’s not just for people with cancer, it’s also for caregivers and others who are deeply affected by it. It’s for anyone who has a relationship to cancer and a common experience that can be shared in healthy ways that are healing.
When we get together we don’t necessarily discuss cancer. You can discuss whatever you want.
The thing about cancer is, it’s the club you didn’t want to join, so now you’re part of this tribe which just happens to be cancer. There’s a weight off your shoulders and you talk and open up”.
At the end of the day, she says, “the important things are not what you did every day (that you can’t do anymore), it comes down to having a solid community of real people who will show up with ice cream and without invitation if need be, who will call you and text you.
People underestimate community, activity and the power of positive energy as medicine – that’s what this is. Whatever people are going through it’s important to have a community to turn to and feel comfortable in that”.
Mina is now stable and in the rehabilitation phase of her treatment. She continues to run the collective to support members at every stage of the process.
Her energy and enthusiasm for building and strengthening her community is inspirational. In her Meetup group description, she says, “…So what are you waiting on? Let’s get on with the business of life.”