On a rather cold and windy lakeside, a dozen or so corporate teams prepared to take each other on in the English Speaking Cancer Association’s (esca) annual dragon boat race at the Lac de Joux. All great fun and for a good cause – the event is esca’s major fund-raising event of the year.
Hundreds of spectators and contestants milled around the team enclosures, giving voluble support to whoever was getting soaked as they paddled with varying levels of (dis)coordination towards the finishing point. And there was plenty else to do – a silent auction, food stalls, a second-hand book stand and, what at first seemed rather strange, a book launch.
Côté nuit côté soleil, publishedby Slatkine, is an anthology of accounts by young people of their fight against cancer. An interview with four of the contributors in between their races was both sobering and impressive. These courageous young adults in their late teens and early twenties had all fought off the disease as young teenagers. They spoke of the dramatic effect of cancer on their relationships with friends and family, rather than about the disease itself. They spoke with an ease, maturity and insight well beyond their years – hardly surprising since their childhoods had come to an abrupt halt, causing rupture with some friends and strengthening their bonds with others. One young woman, Alice, described her ordeal in terms of a positive transformation rather than an experience. Jeremy, Margaux and Emma, quick to agree, also stood together in their firm belief that the only way to beat cancer is to work to beat it. “Becoming a victim is not an option,” they said. Holding the book launch at the race was a poignant way to highlight the event’s purpose, giving hope as well as a heightened sense of appreciation for the fun we were having and the realization that cancer does not discriminate on the basis of wealth or nationality.
Esca’s main aim is to support cancer patients and their loved ones. The way the volunteers organized the event left nobody in any doubt that esca provides a welcoming and supportive environment in which people can share and express their worries and experiences of cancer in English. No surprise, perhaps, since all of esca’s volunteers have been personally touched by the disease in different ways.
For further information about esca call +41 (0)22 791 6305. It also has an out of hours helpline +41 (0)79 531 5511. Its drop-in centre at 150 rte de Ferney in Geneva is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10h to 14h. www.cancersupport.ch