Dream Creator

Dream Creator
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Just a small town Canadian dreamer... This started as the diary of a young woman's experience with breast cancer and continues 5 years later as the diary of a woman, like many other, who has decided to take her lemons and make lemonade. **If reading this blog for the purpose of learning about my breast cancer experience, PLEASE START AT THE OLDEST POST (October 2009) AND WORK YOUR WAY FORWARD**

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Young Survivors Conference 2011- Ottawa

A month or so ago Kerry and I flew to Ottawa for "cancer camp" part 2!!
Forgive my rephrasing, but it's one of those things, like if you are blind, you can make blind jokes....
And to be honest cancer camp isn't a slag, it's quite fitting really.
Gathering with peeps, just like yourself has a comforting quality, makes you feel like a kid again.
In a secret club,
that nobody will ever understand.
We are the secret superheros of the world.

Kerry (my husband, if you haven't followed) and I were like giddy teenagers on the days approaching this reunion.
So excited to be surrounded by the people who know!
I hesitate telling other people how deeply we feel about these gatherings as I never want to hurt feelings, but it really feels sometimes like everyday life I am an alien on another planet.
Interacting with everyone.
And when we get to be with our cancer peers, it's like we have come home.
To our planet.
Just a look in someones eye can speak volumes.
It's like we have super-cancer-sonic empathetic, telepathy.
And the minute we arrived at our hotel we were able to relax, and breathe a sigh of relief.
No more pretending everything is ok.
No more pretending we are "normal" (whatever that means)
No more .
It's funny too, how from the minute we arrived at the hotel you can almost always pick out the other young adults who are there to attend this conference.
I swear there is a soft bubble of energy (an aura-so-to-speak) around each of them (us)
Because this conference was not an actual retreat reunion, there were MANY new faces to us....but there were also many familiar.
Night one, we all gathered in the dining room for our first dinner together.
In a room of about 80 people, we were able to spot and greet many of our colleagues.
It was lovely.
The opening night was a run-down of the weekend, an ice-breaker activity and what we call at a YACC event "Opening Circle"
This is where we pass a string around the room. We all hold it (connecting us all) and we go around the room introducing ourselves, tell a little about who we are and possibly what we are hoping to get from our time spent there or just a word we are feeling.
Ok, i know this sounds cheesy, like an AA meeting or something emotionally intimidating like that, but it is a beautiful thing.
even my husband (who is anti-connecting with people's emotions or his own emotions) has been surprised by how wonderful this is. He is now seeking out a career where he can "connect with people's emotions"
He's a feel-a-holic.
There were may lymphomas, leukemias, a few brain cancers, one testicular, a bunch of breast, ovarian, cervical, bladder, liver and the (always) few rare 50-letter-long OMA'S that no one has ever heard of.
Many of us were in remission, there were (unsettlingly) many recurrences, a few in the middle of treatment and some terminal.
There were some poor folks who had (remember at the age of 40 or less) been diagnosed 4 times already!!!
Gives you perspective on how lucky you are.

Over the next few days we attend many seminars on various topics.
I chose to attend a seminar on Brain Fog
which was eye opening!!
Finally proof that I am not: a) Crazy b) getting Alzheimer's c) just plain rude
Please please, if you have had cancer (even if you haven't had chemo) or if you have suffered post traumatic stress (being a caregiver even) then look at this website. The old term Chemo-Brain has been erased because scientists have realized that this gap in your brain (and yes, it really exists, proven thru imaging) is not JUST from the meds we get but more so from the stress we are going thru from the overload of info and emotions we face with a diagnosis.
This seminar showed scientific proof that this condition exists and gave us many useful tools to help us fight it and exercise our brains back to normal.
So, hopefully soon I won't have anymore giant brain gaps when dealing with my clients, the public ("What's my birthday again?"), or when do regular daily tasks ("How do you spell yuor?")
We had an amazing guest speaker on exercise related to cancer...the stats on how much even a little exercise can prevent cancer (or recurrences) was astonishing.
We had a guess speaker on the medical community and how to advocate for yourself and your cause, it was brilliant....
Everyday there was small group sessions with about 6-8 of us where we could discuss issues, fears, personal things, things that make us happy or what have you. It was a great time to build tighter relationships with some amazing people.
It's always so sad to hear the feelings and fears of those faced with a stage four disease. But at the same time, their courage puts perspective into my life. Talk about a reality check on not sweatin' the small stuff!
On Saturday we were so lucky to be blessed with Geoff's Story. Geoff is the gentleman who started YACC. He is utterly amazing! He was twice diagnosed with Lymphoma and actually was in a coma (on his death bed) at one point and came back, to be a strong, healthy man even having children (which they said there was only a 1% chance of this happening)
Geoff's motto is: "1% is not 0%"
(Please read more about his story and YACC here: http://youngadultcancer.ca/organization/p/background/
He truly is a miracle...or maybe he is proof that perseverance, will to live and belief can make anything happen.
The speech he gave, lead us up to "The Climb".
The Climb is a physical walk or hike (or climb) that is different each year. It is symbolic of our courage and accomplishments.
When Geoff finally got out of the hospital after he almost died, he climbed Signal Hill (NFL) with his family and friends.
After he created YACC he decided to do "a Climb" annually and every year the number of young adults taking part grows and grows...
This year there was almost 90 of us walking 5km along the canal in Ottawa (let me tell you how beautiful a day it was!) and at the end of this walk we climbed several steep sets of stairs up to Parliament hill (The Parliament building).
It was an inspirational day, we talked and laughed and bonded with each other as we walked that 5km...and there were many ill survivors who really had to push themselves to make it happen and climb those stairs...it was very emotional to be a part of it and witness other people in that moment.
Once we made it to the top we all had 2 pennies and we threw them in the big flame and made 2 wishes...one for us and one for YACC....it was a special moment for me that I cannot share (don't cha know in order to make a wish come true it needs to remain a secret!)
We ended the day at the local pub for a pint or two and some laughs.
The end of this inspirational weekend was a dinner and dancing night at a local Italian Eatery. The food was amazing and the dancing and drinks was a hoot!
It was nice to wind down the weekend by letting loose and just being real. Having a real night out together.
Everyone got dressed up, the wigs came out and it was a blast!
Kerry and I looked out at the dance floor at one point and while witnessing a dance floor full of crazy (maybe even tipsy) cancer survivors/patients cutting up the floor, we couldn't help but chuckle "Oh my gosh, it's Cancer Gone Wild!"
It was so cute to see everyone just enjoying life and all I could think was "These bartenders probably heard they were working a cancer party and expected it to be depressing and lame and look at us!!! Right ON!!!"
The bottom line is we are all just regular people who have just faced something really shitty and really scary. We have all looked death in the face (even for a moment) and that has changed us, made us better, made us more beautiful, made us stronger, made us more self-aware, made us grateful, made us more wise, made our hearts grow bigger.
Like Superheroes.

I'm not gonna lie, when the weekend came to an end I felt sick.
I didn't want it to end.
And I could tell, Kerry felt the same.
Even though he doesn't talk much about his emotions, I know how much this support group means to him.
He finally can be surrounded by people who get it. And by beautiful people who genuinely just want to live...real, clean people. Pure people.
Our trip home was quiet as we both just absorbed the love we had just gathered...and both sat wondering,
When we could experience it again.

(ps: thank you to everyone who donated to make this happen for us and the other 80-some peolple who attended)

Blogging Binge

So much has been happening that I haven't been keeping up with my posts...
To be honest, I was debating last night whether I close this Blog or not.
The thought of writing seemed to make me feel resentful.
Then I realized.
It's not the Blogging that is making me resentful,
It is the awful things that have been happening...
I am avoiding dealing with them.
So here I sit.
With so may things to get off my chest,
I guess I will have to have a blogging binge and kill a few things at once.