I’ve had the pleasure, and sometimes the honour, of attending a truck load of meetings, conferences, workshops, and board meetings where some element of the cancer continuum was the focus. I’ve learned a ton of stuff about how the system really works, as much as I learned by being treated by it for sure. My most recent commitment of time and energy was so different than any in the past.
While very few of these meetings, conferences, workshops, and boards have been focused on the issues facing young adults with cancer, the trend is changing. The few times I have attended a session where young adults and cancer is the topic, I’ve been the only young adult survivor in the room. This is something that has stayed with me.
Should I be grateful to be at the table? Should I rock the boat because I’m the only one?
Both. Though if you know me you won’t be surprised to learn I lean toward the latter more than the former. Call it my “disturbing disposition,” as in, I love to disturb.
One of the more recent cancer initiatives for young adults that holds such great promise is the Adolescent Young Adult Cancer Task Force, of which I’m a member. It’s funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC). Of the 20 or so members, I’m the only survivor. Some would say one in 19 is fair odds, but it doesn’t feel that way most days.
A few weeks back the task force delivered the first ever Canadian Adolescent Young Adult Cancer Workshop and I can point to two very cool and significant milestones from that experience.
The first is that of the 100 delegates in attendance, 25 were survivors. This is progress by any measure. And on a personal note, it was powerful to have so many of my survivor buddies with me at the table, learning, sharing their experience, their ideas for the future, helping further articulate the change we wish to see. We will affect the change together.
The second was the momentum YACC gained from its role in this workshop, by being so involved with the logistics for the survivors (big thanks, Karine!) to the acknowledgment that there is no need to create another organization to carry forward the advocacy efforts on behalf of adolescents and young adults with cancer. YACC will be that organization.
Big thanks to all involved in the workshop. I initially billed it as the “Promise of Progress” in a blog before the holidays, we have now have the responsibility to ensure we live up to the promise.
Live life. Love life.