On February 5th, 2019 Danika, a 38-year-old teacher, referred herself to Forward Foundation after being made aware of a previous recipient’s experience, as they had met through Young Adult Cancer Canada. Danika had been diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer and, as a previous world traveller, wanted to share an intimate trip with some of those closest to her in order to connect her community together.
“Forward. What does this word, idea, mean? When we say it, we think of movement, advancing forward with time. This can be hard to understand when you’re a young adult diagnosed with a terminal illness, which is removing that time from you second by minute by hour. Life, in all its beauty and pain, continues to move forward. Time both leaves us behind and pushes us forward into an uncertain and difficult future.” – Danika
Danika had spent much of her adult life travelling and living abroad while working as a teacher. During those years, she met three teacher colleagues from across North America and they became an integral part of her life even though they had never all met each other.
Danika’s wish was to bring the three of her friends together to meet at last. She felt in her heart that they would connect and all become close friends. This was so very important to her, as she said that when she was gone she thought they could provide support to one another with their relationship with her serving as the common denominator. They could have wonderful shared memories and new connections.
“Claire once told me that Christopher wasn’t scared of dying but of hurting those he loved. I know this feeling. It often creeps into my thoughts in the small hours. Those I most adore will continue moving forward without me. If I were still here with them, I would hope to be able to prevent their pain, but at some point, our paths will diverge, and I will have to leave them, as much as that hurts and is nearly unbearable to think of.”
She wanted to bring everyone together for a mini road trip around the island she grew up on, showing them all of the places that were so important to her and were a part of her childhood. She wanted to end in Tofino, as that was her safe place and the place she felt most at peace. Forward Foundation brought the four friends together and arranged a 4-day road trip of a lifetime around Vancouver Island that included spa dates, a whale-watching boat tour, high teas, and beautiful oceanfront accommodations.
“With all this uncertainty, the Forward Foundation provided me with the opportunity to still feel like part of my loved ones’ future. In August 2019, I spent 6 days with a few of my dearest friends, sharing my memories with them and creating new ones for them to keep when I’m gone. My past became part of their future as we travelled Vancouver Island and visited familiar sights from my childhood, creating a deep sense of connection. This meant a great deal to all of us, and at times was a very emotional experience, such as when we saw a grey whale surface on a wildlife boat tour near Tofino.
“I know that my friends, along with my family, who supported us on our trip, will always be grateful for the experiences so lovingly arranged by Claire and Louise, along with everyone else at the Forward Foundation. They anticipated and provided for our every need, allowing us the chance to simply dive into the experience. We were spoiled emotionally, even more than physically, by these most wonderful and kind people, who I now treasure. I felt Christopher’s presence too, especially on the beach in Tofino. The gift he continues to give to those of us now in his situation, through those he loved, is beautiful and invaluable.
“How can I accurately describe the gratitude I feel for being chosen to receive this gift, not only that of the experience or the trip, but more profoundly, of friendships old and new, and of deep connections? I can only say thank you for allowing me the chance to keep moving forward while asking time to hold on just a little longer.”