“ Don’t stop doing what you love - in fact use it to accept that life is different now.
Serena is a Canadian mAss Kicker who hails from Vancouver. Serena’s skills as an empathetic listener and workshop facilitator have recently earned her the Inaugural Inspiration Award from Dress for Success Vancouver. Her diagnosis with a brain tumor almost four years ago was life changing and has influenced her to this day
mK: How did you find out about your diagnosis?
SC: I went to the Dr. with a perpetual laryngitis who sent me to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor AKA Otolaryngologist) who then ordered an MRI. I was then diagnosed with a meningioma in 2012.
mK: What were your symptoms?
SC: Difficulty breathing when doing any activity, it was a challenge to take my dog for his daily walks; choking on my food and beverage; raspy voice, no longer able to sing, people couldn’t hear me on the phone or in a noisy environment.
mK: Are you involved with any organizations? If you are, what do you do?
If you aren’t at this stage, are there any that you would like to get involved with and why?
SC: I have recently started attending a brain tumor support group at the BC Cancer Agency and have been made aware of the organization Inspire Health. It is my way of getting the support that I need as I journey through this new chapter of life to develop my “new normal”.
mK: What motivates you?
SC: Seeing the hope in others after networking, getting information, compassion and the learning process.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
SC:. When I see a young child experience life for the first time, this makes me laugh and cry at the same time. How they enjoy every minute and the courage in their little faces when something scares them. Injustice makes me angry
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
SC: Experience the downtown eastside area of Vancouver, Canada. It has really opened up my eyes to the greater suffering of homelessness and poverty. I have volunteered in the community before, but this has lit a fire in my spirit to help individuals pick up the pieces after the storm.
I started a support group for women who are in transitional living. There are eight women living in each facility and it was the lack of support services and the need for support that motivated me to I spoke to the tenant support worker (TSW) about the services available. He said they didn’t have anything and that if I wanted to do something I could organize it. So for the last 3 ½ years I have been developing and facilitating the “Ladies Social”. In hopes of making this project successful, I am taking the Peer Support Worker Training pre-requisites and will be taking the Peer Support portion this September.
In 2015, I received a grant from the Neighbourhood Small Grant Program through the Vancouver Foundation and put a series of workshops on using the Mental Health Recovery and WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) evidence based principles by Mary Ellen Copeland. The success of these projects fuels my passion for helping others and I will soon be starting two groups at the Sakura So Residence and the Yukon Residence.
mK: What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
SC: I think the toughest challenge is to rebuild their lives.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
SC: Watching TV in the evenings, coffee and chocolate, and horse riding
mK: What is next on your agenda?
SC: Turning my true passion, F.A.I.T.H Wellness, into a non-profit organization
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
SC: Educate yourself on the diagnosis and ways to have it treated. Don’t stop doing what you love – in fact use it to accept that life is different now and develop a support network.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
SC: Something that people don’t know about me is that I am taking training to become a Peer Support Worker and that I was married.
mK: What is your favorite song and why?
SC: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson, it reminds me of our resilience to get up after being knocked down.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
SC: Keep kicking mass! lol
Serena Cripps, workshop facilitator, award winner, coffee connoisseur and supporter of those who need a helping hand. Motivational indeed! Thank you so much for your time in sharing your experience with us – we look forward to hearing about your next steps in kicking mass!