Something INCREDIBLE happened last weekend. While we were trying to come up with the right words to describe Survivor Conference 2018, Samantha Martin beat us to it. Please take a minute over the weekend to read what this event meant to her.
I find it hard to find the words to articulate how I feel about this past weekend. This 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, having no one who really understood me caused my emotional and mental health to suffer.
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 it may be a good idea to get in contact with them. I didn’t feel like I wore the title of “survivor,” or maybe it was the anxiety of actually reaching out to someone that scared me, so 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. I remember our first conversation was about ports versus Hickman lines. We continued to talk online until we eventually met in person where 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.
Last weekend, I attended my first Survivor Conference. This is the biggest event I’ve attended thus far with 100+ other young adult cancer survivors. 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 treatments. 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.
In the words of the beautiful Karine, 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 fucking much.
Here’s what some other participants had to say:
“Post conference” from Cancer and Other Hiccups
“I drank the cool aid” from Death To Bob
“YACC Conference: Crush Cancer” from This Infernal Racket
“Another page turns” from Storms Don’t Scare Me