The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Challenging My Comfort Zone

by Rachel MihalkoSurvivor, Hodgkin's LymphomaAugust 11, 2020View more posts from Rachel Mihalko

This summer working with Elephants and Tea has been more incredible than I could have imagined. I have gotten to work with the most wonderful people, do tasks that I love, and connect with so many new people.

I never quite knew how to get connected in the AYA cancer world. I was always nervous to join things like a Zoom call with strangers from across the country. It was daunting, and way outside my comfort zone. But, when I was encouraged to join our Happy Hour the first week I started my internship here, it was the push I needed to start connecting. I’ve done similar things since then, while still attending Happy Hour every Friday. I’ve made friends with people I never would have met outside of this experience.

Getting to write every week has been amazing. However, I’m still learning to embrace my story and share it unashamed in every aspect of my life. When writing, I still struggle with the fear that people will think that I am simply attention-seeking instead of trying to work through my emotions and make people understand what this experience is like.

It can be so difficult to open up about these things, especially when you know the people you’re sharing with might not understand if they’re outside of the cancer community. 

I got a chance recently to share my story with a group of AYA cancer survivors and patients, and even seeing the faces of other people my age who have been through this was such a comfort. Sometimes I feel like I’m at such an in between age, especially where a cancer diagnosis is concerned. Just in general, I’m still in that place in life where I’m trying to figure out who I am on my own.

I’m creating my independence, all the while recovering from the trauma that is cancer.

I didn’t think there were that many other college aged survivors out there, but I got to sit on a Zoom call with several of them. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met other AYAs, but most of them are still a good bit older than me, since I’m on the younger end of AYA. So getting to see other people in the same stage of life as me was a comfort, despite my nervousness to share my story with them.

If it weren’t for Elephants and Tea, I wouldn’t have created so many of the connections I now have with a handful of really great survivors. This internship has given me so much more than career skills; it has given me friendships.

It took challenging my comfort zone for all of these amazing things to happen. Maybe I should do that more often.


All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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