On Halloween weekend I was in Toronto at the Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s (CBCN) National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer “Body, Mind Spirit. It's taken me this long to reflect on the event before I could write about my experiences.
One of my take-a-ways from the conference is it takes time to find a new normal and it isn’t an overnight process. Most of the women I spoke with said when they began engaging with life again they put their energies into new priorities. As one woman aptly put it, “survivorship is a lot of work; it takes time to feel comfortable in your own skin.”
I have to agree with that statement. I worry about every bruise, bump and skin discoloration. I think about the long-term, it's one of the reasons why Rob and I bought the country property. We don't want to put off what makes us truly happy until later, just in case. I look at the recent death of my Aunt Sheren and vow to live for today as well as tomorrow. At 64 she died of lung cancer, after successfully beating back breast cancer close to two decades ago. She was a stalwart supporter of me during my treatment and I'll miss her. She would appreciate what it means to go through reconstruction and would admire the new "girls".
Cancer changes you, whether you want it to or not. It’s not just the physical changes either – the loss of hair, the gain of weight – there are numerous psychological changes as well, and it is how you deal with these changes which really matters.
The conference reinforce those thougths and had something for everyone. There were 36 workshops in total dealing with a diverse range of topics from sexuality and babies after cancer, living green and eating healthy to advocacy and financial health. Exhibits provided information on hair options, reconstruction and various support groups and resources available to women (and their families).
I took the living green workshop, meditation, belly dancing, yoga, advocacy and understanding survivorship. Plus there was a film presentation on Friday evening and our guest speaker on Saturday was cancer survivor Biff Naked. She held the audience spellbound for the hour and half where she shared her story.
However, the best part of the event was the opportunity to hear the stories of othe women. To share their highs and lows, their concerns, their successes and know I've joined a sisterhood of sorts which where there will always be someone who can support me, listen to be and just be there, because she's been there.
I want to say a special thank you to and recognize the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Atlantic Region which, through its bursary program, funded the cost of attending the conference including registration, accommodation and airfare. Without their support I wouldn't have had this opportunity.
Thanks as well to Lisa C. who first told me about the conference and the bursary program.