True confessions: I meant to post this last week before going to CancerCon, but then…well, life. And so this post is going to be a combination of looking forward and looking back.
If I had posted pre-CancerCon:
Apparently to the uninitiated, “CancerCon” is a really strange name for a conference…a name that might hit a nerve, feel inappropriate somehow, or just seem really strange.** I didn’t really realize this, having been immersed in the world of cancer for long enough that my barometer for “normal” is a bit skewed, but I mentioned to someone the other day that I was travelling to Denver this weekend (if the blizzards permit) for CancerCon, and they looked at me very strangely and said “You’re going to what? Is that a real thing?”
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I spend half of my working life in a cancer setting supporting patients, survivors, families and loved ones through their years of cancer. CancerCon is an amazing event that I have had the privilege of both attending and presenting at over the past 4 years. It is put on by the (even more) amazing team at Stupid Cancer to provide a place for adolescents and young adults – otherwise known as AYAs (and by the way, if you are 39 or younger you are considered a “young adult” in the eyes of the medical establishment) – to come together and find community, support, resources, education and definitely a good time. Does that sound weird to you? I guess I can understand that. It might have seemed weird to me as well 20 – or even 10 – years ago. But it’s not so much weird as awesome once you’re there.
The truth is, not everyone going through treatment for cancer or in recovery wants to be part of the larger cancer community. Some people are very intentional about not letting cancer become part of their identity or what shapes them. But some people benefit immensely from knowing they are not alone and learning from others who have walked a similar path ahead of them. CancerCon creates that opportunity for AYAs specifically, because if ever there is a time in your life when you might particularly crave community, adolescence and young adulthood is that time.
I realize the audience for this particular post is probably fairly small – if you are on my site looking for counseling resources, chances are you don’t have cancer. And if you do happen to also have cancer now or have had cancer in the past, chances are you were not diagnosed as an AYA. But if it so happens that you are in this rather elite club, can I please encourage you to call or email me? Especially if you don’t know that there is a community out there for you, because I would be happy to connect you to these and other resources that may very well change this entire experience for you. No strings attached.
I will be speaking to 2 of the groups that I most enjoy working with this weekend – couples and caregivers. I also will have the fun first time experience of being interviewed on a pod cast! I hope I don’t blow it. I’ll post it here (or somewhere on my site) once it’s live. Unless I totally freeze, then I might delete this part of my blog and try to pretend the whole thing never happened. Time will tell!
I hope to share more inspiration after the conference, but for now I’m keeping this short and sweet so I can go pack my bags…Denver, here I come!
Now that I am back:
The blizzards cooperated, it was a beautiful weekend in Denver.
The conference was, as it always is, wonderful. I am, as I always am, humbled both by the courage of the people who are dealing with cancer in their own lives or the lives of a loved one, and of the other incredibly professionals who are working to support these people. I am using my motivation and inspiration to get my cancer resources page up and running on my website (now at least there’s a place for it, although it’s sadly empty right now). I will be taking a wee break from writing to focus my energy there and make it truly useful. IF YOU KNOW OF GREAT RESOURCES FOR CANCER PATIENTS, SURVIVORS, AND FAMILY MEMBERS, PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME!!! I would be happy to share them here. Check back in to my resources page the next time you’re here, hopefully it will be chock full of good stuff!
**By the way, when you’re a therapist you sometimes generally lose sight of what is “strange” versus “normal” – feel free to call me out if it’s clear I’ve lost sight! It’s also true that when you’re going through life altering _______ (fill in the blank) you can easily lose sight of what is “normal.” Right? You’re strangeness is safe here with me. Welcome, crazy one:
“Oh my dear comrades, let us crazy ones have delight…in spite of everything–yes, lets!” Vincent Van Gogh
Courtesy of my dear friend, Virginia Christman. A woman who knows how to delight in crazy.