SC2012 day 4: A little help from my friends

November 5, 2012

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Sunday–the final day–was jam packed. From workshops in the morning, to the closing circle in the afternoon, to the banquet that evening, we really made sure to make it count!

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Laura Pasqualino came to do a two-hour workshop in the morning for any parents who were wondering how to balance children and cancer. This is a topic we know a lot of people struggle with and we will provide some notes from the sessions here in the next few days.

Dr. Norma D’Agostino and YACC’s very own Karine Chalifour held two sessions on anxiety and depression which were complemented by Frédéric Messier’s two sessions on managing your networks.

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The anxiety and depression session proved to be very moving as attendees talked about things that make them feel worried, guilty, and stressed. There isn’t a magic idea that will solve everyone’s problems, but one thing we learned is it is important to identify if any external factors may be having an impact on your emotions (ex. medications, foods, sleeping patterns, etc.).

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One great takeaway from the network workshop was the idea of keeping people in the loop. When Fred’s wife, Weifun, was diagnosed overseas, they sent emails containing just the facts to people who needed to be in the know when they returned to Canada. That kept them from having to recite the exhausting history and gave their friends and family a filter to use when offering help.

Some people were uncomfortable with taking that approach to keep the masses informed, but great things can come from an email group. Don’t forget–YACC exists partly because Geoff started updating people on his “real time” cancer experience through email. That doesn’t mean it’s right for you, but it’s worth examining other techniques such as trusted spokespeople and even blogs if you are finding it difficult to manage the conversation.

One of the highlights of the Conference was the survivor panel with Colin Anderson, Dawn Cleary, and Tim Buckland. They each spoke about their experience with cancer and how they transitioned beyond it. Dawn proved why her attitude toward repeat diagnoses makes her one of the fiercest people we know, Tim captivated us with a tale about how he came to be a three-time testicular cancer survivor, and Colin delivered the money shot: “Cancer didn’t make me better; cancer made me worse. YACC made me better.”

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We wrapped up the formal part of the Conference Sunday afternoon with the closing circle. This is a tradition in YACC events where people participate in some sort of wrap up activity to help transition out of the conference bubble and back to the real world.

This year, delegates were given a puzzle piece with someone else’s name on it during the opening ceremony. They got to know that person all weekend and then wrote a word on it to describe their “secret friend.” Everyone took turns presenting their piece to the group and then put it in the middle of the circle where we made a big puzzle to show how everyone fits into the group.

Then, we celebrated with dinner, dancing, and awards at The Ballroom.

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Matt Wells from MuchMoreMusic was the MC and his band, Lazybones, kept us entertained and got us on the dance floor before a DJ took our requests for the rest of the night. We can’t thank them enough for coming out, and we don’t want to say too much, but this isn’t the last you’ll see of Matt!

One cool thing we started this year was the PoP Awards which are given to some people who have been critical in the growth and development of YACC as an organization. Our first honourees were Dave Weiller for the generous donations CDL Systems has made to the Survivor Conference for the past six years, Dr. Norma D’Agostino for offering her psychological expertise which ensures our programs are life-changing, and Brian Vallis for his ongoing commitment and leadership of YACC’s Board of Directors.

A photo booth was set up to capture Retreat Yourself groups, couples, best friends, new friends, and other segments of the crowd in their party finery and rock and roll costumes.

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Geoff found a new ersatz microphone by way of a glass water bottle and everyone stayed until they couldn’t fight off tired feet and drooping eyelids any longer.

We hope you all had as much fun as we did, and that we’ll see you again next year!

Don’t forget to keep checking back over the next week for workshop notes and wrap up posts from more of the YACC crew!

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