Survivor Conference 2018 recap

June 22, 2018

By Sammi Martin

I find it hard to find the words to articulate how I feel about this past weekend. I attended the Young Adult Cancer Canada Survivor Conference, and to say my life is forever changed is only the tip of the iceberg.

During my first diagnosis with my cancer — neuroblastoma — I felt extremely isolated and alone. I didn’t know anyone else in my age range who had cancer. Of course, family and friends were great supporters, but their support can only go so far. There are things they just don’t understand because they haven’t been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment themselves. That being said, without anyone who really understood me, my emotional and mental health extremely suffered.

I relapsed in 2013 and was on death’s door. My physical health was put to the forefront and the main objective was to get me stable enough to be able to live. Again, I kept my emotions to myself and suffered in silence. My doctor mentioned an organization named Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), and that I should get in contact with them. At the time, I didn’t feel like I wore the title of “survivor,” or maybe I was feeling the anxiety of actually reaching out to someone, and it scared me. I pushed his advice aside and didn’t reach out to YACC.

Luckily, through a family member, I connected with another young adult cancer survivor and we chatted on Facebook. She had just finished her treatments and I was still going through mine. Our first conversation was about port-a-caths versus Hickman lines. We continued to talk online until we eventually met in person when she came to the hospital with me and sat in the waiting room as I had an MIBG scan. To this day, she hasn’t left my side, and I am lucky to call Beth my absolute rock and best friend.

In 2014, Beth and I decided to attend a YACC event called The Big Cancer Hook-Up at Memorial University. I remember walking into MUN and looking at Beth wondering what we should do. ‘”Do we just go sit down? Do we talk to people? Who are these people and do they all have cancer? What the fuck am I doing here?!” Safe to say, that first event lit the fire to attend more events. I attended several YACC Localife events whenever I could get to St. John’s, and I quickly made new friends who understood where I was coming from.

From June 14-18, 2018, I attended my first YACC Survivor Conference. This is the biggest event I’ve attended thus far, with 100 other young adults affected by cancer. On Thursday, I was extremely shy and my social anxiety was through the roof. Now, I wish I could turn back the clock and redo the entire weekend. This experience has connected me with my second family. These people “get it.” They understand what it’s like to go through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. For the first time in my life, I was in a place where I was surrounded with people just like me! The feeling is incredible.

We shared stories, experiences, trials, and triumphs. We laughed and cried together. We remembered those who have passed away from this terrible disease, and we honoured them. We danced the night away and had one too many drinks. We became a family unlike any other. My heart is so full. I cannot imagine my life without these people now.

I want to say thank you to the participants. Thank you to all of you for being so amazing. You are the most beautiful souls I have ever had the honour of meeting. I can’t seem to get all my feelings into words right now, but until then, I will leave you with this: Don’t stop fighting. You are all warriors and you’ve been through more than most can dream. When the road seems like there is no end and the light at the end of the tunnel is hard to find, remember we are family and we are always here to listen to each other. You are all extreme powerhouses. Use your strengths and talents to show the world how amazing you are, and never be scared to be yourself. I commend you on your courage to get through all you’ve gotten through. I wish I could hug every single one of you. Until we meet again, I love you all so fucking much. We are family.

In the words of the beautiful Karine and Geoff, thank you for having cancer. Your battle and story has created something unlike any other. Your purpose in life is incredible and I want to thank you a million times over. Your strength inspires us all and we love you so much.

We also want to thank everyone who made it possible, from our Survivor Conference sponsors, to our Shave for the Brave supporters, to those who held third party fundraising events with the purpose of facilitating the connection Sammi described above. 

Every cancer, every stage, YACC has the backs of young adults affected by cancer, and we can only do that because you have ours. Thank you. 

 

Other posts

“I drank the cool aid” by DeathToBob

“Post Conference 2018” by Silverlupus: Life Thru Cancer And Other Hiccups

“YACC Conference: Crush Cancer” by This Infernal Racket + a vlog!

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