Becky’s blog: Let’s YACC, Survivor Conference editionJune 13, 2014
This weekend was difficult for me. I had a great weekend working, biking, and spending quality time with friends, but it was difficult because despite where I was, and how happy I was to be there, I knew where I wasn’t. I had made the decision, not attend this year’s Survivor Conference, and though it was not an easy choice, I think it was the one I needed to make.
For those of you that don’t know, the conference is Canada’s largest gathering of young adult cancer survivors and their supporters. It is a weekend focused on connection, empowerment, moving forward, and finding support. It brings together first-timers, friends, family, supporters, and facilitators for a weekend that will last a lifetime.
My first conference was in St. John’s, NL in 2010. I didn’t know anyone but the supporter I’d brought with me. I was scared — afraid that I’d be judged for being too healthy, and not having enough problems. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I was welcomed with open arms (literally! If you’re not a hugger, I hope you’re comfortable telling people, because you will be approached for hugs.). I’d done a good job of hiding after registration — I wasn’t ready to meet people right away — so the first people I met and talked to were in front of me in the buffet for line for dinner. I sat with them while we ate, and met two more people who were also seated at our table. We talked about lots of things: what we liked to do for fun, our favorite sweets, where we live. It turned out meeting other survivors was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and as the weekend went on, it got easier.
We ate meals together, had free-time together, and had the opportunity to play games together. We shared pieces of our stories (as much or as little as we wanted); we heard speakers talk about self-care, and dealing with the challenges in our lives; we learned skills like meditation, body scanning, how to use a knife properly, and exercise tips for a range of physical abilities. We explored the power of storytelling, and found strength in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We shared fears, tears, and triumphs. It was here that I learned the power of this community.
If you spend any time around YACC, you’ll eventually hear the expression “YACC’s got your back!” I didn’t fully believe it when I left that first conference, but I learned it the years to follow. When I came home, I joined the Facebook groups and stayed in touch with people through social media. It was there that I saw the connections I’d made with people flourish and continue to grow. People are there to show support in the good and the bad, the mundane and the meaningful. They offer information and advice when asked, or if it seems applicable. They post studies, articles, pictures, and updates. I’ve never encountered YACC trolling, or negativity aimed at anything other than a rotten experience. Two years later, if you meet these people again (as I did when I returned for my second conference) they’ll remember you, reconnect, and greet you, once again, with open arms.
The staff at YACC has your back, too. They are there in social media as much — if not more — than others. They work endlessly to find out how they can help us out, and how they can do it better. In the past few years they’ve taken giant steps to reach further in our community and provide different kinds of support. If you’d like to know more, check out information on Localife and the Big Cancer Hookup.
Though I wasn’t at the conference this weekend, I did have YACC’s back. They say that when one door closes another one opens. Well, behind “Door #2” I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of people at a third party fundraiser for YACC. I told them about my own experience, and thanks to wonders of social media (and #SC14Ignite), I was able to share with them some of my favorite, vicarious moments from the first two days of the conference. I was happy to have the opportunity to share in our experiences, and to feel connected to my community in these moments despite our physical distance.
For those of you that have never been to a Survivor Conference, I hope you have the opportunity to go. There is no way to adequately describe the level of connection, the personal growth, or how deeply it will affect you. For those of you that have gone, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that returning to life this week after SC2014, I hope the con-drop is treating you well. Hugs and love!