By Kristina SmithGoing into becoming a model for the Colon Club, brought me great honor, as I would be one of the first to represent caregivers, after losing my husband to colon cancer, all too young. Although past models, now friends, had shared that this experience was life changing, that’s all they could really say. Questions ensued, presented in rapid fire like an intense interview, but still, the answers remained the same. A distant look off into the air of nothing, with a large smirk on their faces, but still they couldn’t find the words. My Type-A personality quickly feeling panic with no sense of control with exact expectations began to take over, and then, I saw for myself.We did know we would become the face of colon cancer On the Rise, for those affected by this monster before the age of 50. We were told we would feel more beautiful than we have ever felt before. We did know we would have eleven other brothers and sisters, though we didn’t know how that process happened. We did know we would be taken into the deep woods of Tennessee, to relax, heal, have fun, and take a break from reality. All of this sounded like the slice of pie we all needed from this disease, but what we did know got far outweighed by what we didn’t know.We didn’t know we would release steam by shooting guns, jumping from rope swings into the creek, taking long walks without distractions, or hurry from one thing to the other with a clock ticking in our ears to hurry up. I didn’t know I would have a soul-to-soul chat until five in the morning, that would heal my soul in my journey of grief more than I have in almost three years since I last kissed my husband. I didn’t know I had a nurse sister out there, who desires the same thing I do--more than anything else in this world. We wish to watch our babies grow up, see them go to prom, graduate high school, get married. We beg God every day for this same chance, and the threat of not receiving this gift of life, poured out on our cheeks as we held each other for comfort.I didn’t know my Texas sister needed to hear the words from someone else, other than her hunky husband, that we caregivers, really do find them the most sexy when we see them fighting. The scars are blind to us, we see their souls, their strength, their love for us, and our children, that is unmatched by any other person in this world. I didn’t know I would watch another young mother in her happiest days, expecting her first born, that had to fight for her life, and have the innocent joy of expecting her first born taken from her. And yet, her sassy smile outshines all of the hardships.I didn’t know God would continue to place a sister from Michigan in my life, by complete and total chances, that we are supposed to be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives. I didn’t know there was a little brother we all needed, to make us laugh beyond belief, because of his innocent goofiness. And I certainly didn’t know there was a person on this planet that could cause me to nearly die from suffocation of laughter, at least five times, because of the hysterics that pours out of his mouth. This owl truly was the best medicine each person at camp experienced.we weren’t told to expect laughter in the greatest abundance we have ever had. I didn’t expect the calm spirit another sister from Michigan provided, as her quietness in her strength that has pulled her through much more than colorectal cancer. She never drew far from her natural role to be a mom, and guide us in many ways through the week.I didn’t know the biggest personality would connect with so many of us through her struggles of not just colon cancer, but having a son with disabilities. Her load is beyond heavy, but her heart and laughter overshadows it all. And to the other caretaker, the one whom I wish I was not in the widow club with at all; the one, I wish we could return the membership cards and return home to our husbands after we left that retreat. I didn’t realize I could see me in so many ways. The stages of grief I have been through, yet get thrown back into unexpectedly at times. That woman represents her husband’s mission to not allow cancer to take over, “Not today Big C, Not today.” She’s going to make it, I know, because I am. And because we now have eleven brothers and sisters to make sure she does. And to our brother who is willing to go into waters unchartered, to take a chance and save his life, but so many others. He is our warrior leading us into unknown chances in medicine, confident in every step he takes that we are advancing to a cure. That confidence exudes as he does blow-outs on each head of hair, and without hesitancy loves every soul he encountersBut no one, including staff, could tell us what to expect when one of our sisters didn’t make it this year. You see, our Angel sister was there every day of the retreat, she is the reason we keep fighting, she is the reason we must find a cure. We didn’t get to meet her, Colon Cancer took that from us. And when something attacks a family, we attack back. And we will fight for Allison. We will fight for each and every person that has been taken from this disease.What they didn’t tell us wasn’t because it was a secret. It was because you cannot explain it. You cannot explain an experience where people love harder, deeper, care more, fight fiercely, and are common ground that you can only be--after you walk through Hell. Let me tell you, I wish every day colon cancer didn’t take my husband, the father to our infant son, my best friend. But I am so grateful it brought me to these brothers and sisters whom all had healing at a Five Star Retreat. I’m glad they couldn’t tell me what to expect, there was no way to, after all.Kristina Smith, a 2018 On The Rise featured caregiver, is a young widow, mother and special education teacher raising her son in Missouri.