Are you looking for a chance to connect in person with other young adult cancer survivors and meet Lacuna Loft in person at the same time? Well, you’re in luck! You can join us in Denver, CO this year for CancerCon!
Lacuna Loft will be running a 2-hour version of our Unspoken Ink: Young Adult Cancer Creative Writing Group that you can attend during one of the session slots at the event. Plus, you’ll get the chance to meet hundreds of other young survivors who totally get what you’ve been through.
We’re headed to CancerCon this weekend! If you’re at Stupid Cancer’s survivorship conference, make sure to stop by the Lacuna Loft booth! You will also be able to hear our CEO, Mallory, talk on a panel about running programs for young adult cancer survivors and caregivers as well as experience our Unspoken Ink: Young Adult Cancer Creative Writing Group program in a session run by our writing group facilitator, Jen! SO MUCH HAPPENING!
To celebrate our 2-year anniversary of being a nonprofit, Lacuna Loft is bringing back our top 31 articles from our archives! The countdown to our top post is continuing today with Flashback #13: Being At CancerCon, written by Mallory. These 31 articles are the best of the best and we’re very happy to share them with you again! The countdown continues tomorrow!
….When I arrived to my first activity, the run/walk scheduled for Friday morning, I was nervous, toting my registration bag of swag, and feeling silly to be at a semi-professional event (since I was representing not only myself but Lacuna Loft) in multi-colored knee length tights and a running shirt. I stayed off to the side and just watched for a few minutes as groups of people, who seemed to have known each other for years, congregated and visited in the downstairs lobby of the hotel. Then, someone walked up and just started talking to me. He was friendly, but not so overly friendly that I immediately worried about what cult I was joining, and very welcoming. During the run/walk I was supposed to be having a walking meeting with someone so I kept an eye on her while I kept talking to my new friend. Once the group started making its way out the door, my walking-meeting partner yelled out for me, and I quickly joined her. From there started an epic couple of days. The first timer welcome and orientation involved a rock-paper-scissors tournament where, once you lost a round of the game you turned into a cheering section for the person you had just lost to. Eventually, the whole room was divided into two, yelling and cheering masses, each supporting their own rock-paper-scissors champion. Over the course of the week, I kept running into people and saying, “oh yea, hey! I played you in rock-paper-scissors!”…
CancerCon was an absolute blast. I wasn’t sure what to expect…I’ll admit that I had my reservations. While I have a strong LOVE (seriously…some of the best folks around) for the people I work with on the Steering Committee and many others I’ve met at the conference, the angry branding of Stupid Cancer is not one that I enjoy. I knew that I would be busy and tired and maybe not have a ton of time to myself. We all have different tastes, right? With a year in between one CancerCon conference and the next, it is easy for me to forget the real strength that comes from the event. It isn’t the branding of the organization that holds it (though I do enjoy the rock star like glam that they adhere to the entire weekend), or the local celebrities that come…
The power of CancerCon is found in each and every survivor and caregiver that shows up, speaks their truth through tears and laughter, and shows love to everyone around them. It’s the late night banter, the fatigue induced laughter, the new definition of “normal” that appears in a place when everyone there has been through something as profound as cancer. This is what will bring me back to CancerCon next year.
I’ll speak more in the next few weeks about various pieces of the wonderful event that is CancerCon, until then enjoy some photos and remember, you are never alone. If you missed CancerCon or were there but aching for some more connection with your young-adult-cancer-having-peers, check out some of the great programs here at Lacuna Loft. You still have time to sign up for the next Writing Group or the soon to come Drawing Workshop. These programs happen from the comfort of your own home while still connecting you directly to 10 other young adult survivors or caregivers through video chat.
This weekend I’m in Denver for CancerCon! If you’re here too, check out the Lacuna Loft booth! Our design and tech guy, Brett, will be there all weekend! I’ll be there too…but also running around helping out the conference 🙂
For this upcoming month of May, we’ll be bringing back some of our older posts that have been your favorites, along with sharing some great new content! Plus, now that you’ve had a few weeks to absorb the changes made to our site, what do you think? Pretty great, right?!
This weekend, Lacuna Loft will be in Denver for CancerCon! Brett, our tech and design guy, will be at the booth all weekend so stop by and say hello! I’ll be running around as well, helping out with the conference, so if you see me, stop and say hello!
Want to hear something super exciting? Our booth will have GIVEAWAYS! If you stop by and hand over your email address, you’ll be entered to win our giveaways!
Giveaway #2. A Scrapbook Journaling kit. This kit includes a crisp, new lined journal, a journaling pen, a packet of single word stickers, a THINK BIG stamp and stamp pad, and two different sets of chipboard stickers for added embellishment.
Giveaway #3. A Game kit. A crossword puzzle book, a Sudoku puzzle book, an origami book, and a package of origami paper. Great for keeping you busy before, during, and after those pesky chemo treatments.
Giveaway #4. We’ll have a great surprise for you from our friends over at Treatmint Box.
Super fun, right?! We’ll also have candy…because, why not? 🙂
Are you a young adult cancer survivor who is interested in knowing more than whether you are fertile or infertile? Yea, me too. I want to know if I still have 10 good childbearing years or whether I’ll face menopause earlier than a normal young adult because of my cancer treatments.
Enter the reproductive window study being carried out right now by the University of California San Diego! I was walking down the aisles of the exhibitor area of CancerCon, talking to another young survivor friend of mine about this very topic of “how much longer am I fertile?!” when we happened upon an OncoFertility table. There, with tears in my eyes, I learned about this Reproductive Window Study. Once I was home, I signed up, was sent the instructions for the study and voila! Everything has been done at home. They send me what I need with step-by-step instructions and I send it back when I’m done. They are looking for many more young adult cancer survivors, young women age 18-40, to join the study! You can sign up today!
When you sign up for the study, there is a detailed questionnaire they ask you to fill out. One of the questions asked about depression and anxiety. The question had depression/anxiety/PTSD/Bi Polar all grouped together though! I didn’t know what to do…and so my anxiety kicked in. I felt lonely and fairly worked up over this simple question that didn’t feel simple at all, but full of everything that cancer had done and had taken away from me. I didn’t know what to answer but I wanted so badly to be a part of the study. Instapeer (if you don’t know what this is, check it out!) wasn’t working but I needed to reach out to someone who would understand exactly what I was going through…so I found one of the wonderful survivors on facebook that I met at CancerCon and messaged her. Within minutes she responded. It was so nice to talk through my problem with someone who knew exactly what I was feeling.
Young Adult Cancer sucks. There is so much riding on every decision that you make. Getting as many answers to as many of my questions as possible has been one of the ways that I cope with how much cancer has taken away or made more complicated. Together, we can gain knowledge and support one another!
Here’s more about the study from the study coordinators:
Are you female and age 18 to 40? Have you had a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment? If so, the Reproductive Window Study needs you! Researchers at UC San Diego want to know how cancer treatments affect the reproductive health of young adult female cancer survivors. Window Study participants will be followed for 18 months and asked to complete study activities at FOUR study time points. Interested? Please visit www.youngcancersurvivor.com, contact the study team at 858-822-0768, or email email@example.com!
Here are a few glances at the magic of CancerCon…in quotes from the weekend. I didn’t add who said the quotation. If you see one of your own though, and you want credit for the awesome quote (or you want it removed) just shoot me an email! Sometimes I’ll provide a bit of explanation but sometimes I don’t think its necessary. The event was intense and powerful and so many great things were said.
“This is where we all learn to be tough, brave, bitches.”
“The two of us are brave bastards.”
“We are no longer B-list subplots!” – talking about how young adults with cancer used to be the on-the-side characters while their support system received the main spotlight
“I feel like I crammed a nonprofit degree up my ass.” – oh Matthew Zachary, I can definitely relate to this one!
“You have so much permission to be pissed as hell…but you have an opportunity now…you are not alone.” – talking about Instapeer, check it out!
OSW = Oh Shit Window
“73,000 young adults diagnosed per year, 1 every 8 minutes. Let’s be there for them. Let’s be there for us.”
“Colorado, you are the healthiest state and you should be proud of that and you have no goddamn humidity in your air!”
“If you follow the rules, you’re doing something wrong.”
“Now I share my story like a boss.” – in reference to sharing your story once you feel in a place to do so
“Whenever I’m stressed, I watch kitten videos on youtube.”
“I don’t sit in that shit boat.”
“I’ve been getting so used to being open and excited about everyone I meet at the conference that I almost knocked on that stranger’s car window just to show them that we were eating donuts too…but I stifled it” … “I know! I just have this urge to go up to someone and start talking about fertility” – this one is paraphrased…and the conversation was hilarious
Have any more from the weekend? I’ll definitely add them!
When I arrived to my first activity, the run/walk scheduled for Friday morning, I was nervous, toting my registration bag of swag, and feeling silly to be at a semi-professional event (since I was representing not only myself but Lacuna Loft) in multi-colored knee length tights and a running shirt. I stayed off to the side and just watched for a few minutes as groups of people, who seemed to have known each other for years, congregated and visited in the downstairs lobby of the hotel. Then, someone walked up and just started talking to me. He was friendly, but not so overly friendly that I immediately worried about what cult I was joining, and very welcoming. During the run/walk I was supposed to be having a walking meeting with someone so I kept an eye on her while I kept talking to my new friend. Once the group started making its way out the door, my walking-meeting partner yelled out for me, and I quickly joined her. From there started an epic couple of days. The first timer welcome and orientation involved a rock-paper-scissors tournament where, once you lost a round of the game you turned into a cheering section for the person you had just lost to. Eventually the whole room was divided into two, yelling and cheering masses, each supporting their own rock-paper-scissors champion. Over the course of the week, I kept running into people and saying, “oh yea, hey! I played you in rock-paper-scissors!”
The conference just kept getting better and more relevant to my life from there. Session after session seemed to be just what I wanted to hear about. From Navigating Intimate Relationships to Preventing and Managing Caregiver Burnout to What Cancer Stole From Me: Grieving and Loss to Living with Chronic/Metastatic/Advanced Cancer to Mindfulness Meditation 101 to Parenting with Cancer to Sexual Health to Fertility: Am I Fertile to Get Busy Sweating: The Role of Exercise During and After Treatment to Managing your Finances to Optimize Your Nutrition to When Did Cancer Turn Me Into A Control Freak and so much more! (Seriously…I got no where near listing all of the different options of sessions that were available!)
You know how sometimes you go to a conference or an event and the main speaker was just picked because they were glitzy or seemed cool on paper but in reality the talk they deliver is boring? Yea, me too. But that wasn’t the case at all, at CancerCon. There were always multiple options of which breakout session to attend at any one given time so I was never left feeling like I couldn’t find a talk that was relevant for my life. The keynote, the awards ceremony, the exhibitors, the concluding ceremonies, the activities…all totally awesome, relevant to my own cancer journey, and really interesting.
As the activities continued, I often felt my emotions bubbling just near the surface. In one of the many sessions, someone would ask a question that resonated so deeply with me that I felt the tears start immediately. (Note to self: next year, wear water proof makeup!) There were volunteers in every room with a microphone to help amplify people’s questions around the room as well as a box of tissues. There were boxes of tissues everywhere! In every session, I would sit in awe as someone else voiced a concern that I had also shared, but that had made me feel alone and isolated. Over and over again, these survivors all around me shared so many of the anxieties and fears that had made me feel so different and isolated from my peers. These other young adult survivors and I had so much in common. It made me realize that for everything that I have been through, my cares and concerns, while not “normal” for your run-of-the-mill, non-cancer-having young adult, are SO expected and normal for a young adult cancer survivor. The experience was powerfully validating. Much of the time I have felt anxious about something in my life and then have made it worse, almost obsessive, with my additional anxiety about the anxiety. Seeing all of these other survivors, battling many of the same things as I am, was an intense and awesome experience.
Throughout the conference, I would meet a small group of people, talk with them for a while, and then we would disband for one reason or another. Sometimes I would find some of those people again and sometimes I wouldn’t. Near the end, I kept going back to find the same two, awesome women 🙂 Every time though, I would sit down with a brand new group of people and we would hit it off, right from the start. We immediately had a million things in common and a lot of fun things to chat about. I learned that all of those people standing in groups who looked like they were friends for years were just like me…slowly finding new people to spend time with as the conference went by. Sometimes that meant we’d known each other before, and sometimes that meant that we’d have just met…but the camaraderie was always there and the connections were instantly made.
There were several fun attractions at the conference as well. The Aflac duck, actually named Aflac!, was there. While I didn’t hold him, I did get to pose next to him and take turns petting him.
We also went on a scavenger hunt around the hotel and downtown Denver. This escapade didn’t start until 9 pm, which is quite late for me especially when I’m already out of my comfort zone. Nonetheless, a few of us banded together and ran around downtown Denver getting everything on the list photographed and documented!
There were fun cardboard cut outs of the StupidCancer founders placed strategically around the hotel. They also had several selfie spots around the area! The whole hotel had projected StupidCancer logos and banners…the effect was a delightful level of fanfare.
There was a fun photo booth, and after several tries, I captured this beauty of a moment with a few, lovely ladies.
The CancerCon was a huge success in my books. I learned so much about myself and had many of my anxieties and concerns validated. I am already super excited for the OMG West, a smaller and free version of the conference occurring in Southern California in November. The dates for next CancerCon are in my calendar and another survivor and I have already talked about sharing a room when we fly back into Denver next year.
If you see a photo of yourself and you’d like it removed, email at firstname.lastname@example.org ! I asked many of you if it was ok to share photos here, on Lacuna Loft, but just in case!
Wow! What a crazy and lively and hectic and awesome event in Denver! CancerCon was a huge success and we loved being part of every second of it! I’m already looking to next year’s event! Look forward to a post next week detailing more of the awesome things that happened at the conference.