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Saturday, March 17, 2007

7th Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer.

My experience at The Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer, February 23rd through the 24th.
Thanks to a scholarship I was able to go to this great conference for the first time this year.
I arrived Friday morning after a bumpy plane ride from Minneapolis where the first snowstorm of the season was about the cover the city.
After arriving at the hotel I went down to do my part and volunteer, I was assigned to greet the conference goers and point the in the right direction to register.
Then Carrie and Chrissy showed up and it was time meet the other girls.
There was a lot to talk about, so we missed the first session of the conference. It was amazing to be around all these young women who went through the experience of Breast Cancer. Everybody with different survivor stories, but each and every women finding positive experiences during their fights.
Saturday was filled with workshops and plenary sessions the first of which was great. Dr Olufunmilayo L. Olopade who gave an medical update for young women affected by breast cancer. She’s a great speaker, very clear and had some interesting information.
The second session from Dr. Julie K. Silver who talked about enhancing quality of life through better nutrition and exercise, brought no new information to me.
The afternoon started for me with the workshop: Get fit! Develop your personal approach to fitness., by Sami Papacek-Reis a cancer exercise specialist. She had some good ideas for women just starting out getting back into shape. I talked with her afterwards to ask about becoming a cancer exercise specialist, because it is something I’ve been thinking about. The last workshop was titled: Fertility after breast cancer: options and strategies, healing and hope, by Dr Amr M. Azim and Jeanne Cater Phd,. It was interesting but somewhat disappointing for me because they addressed mainly the options for women who are before chemo, radiation and hormone therapy.
Then it was time for our photo session. Christine Benjamin is a photographer and survivor who is taking nude pictures of breast cancer survivors for a book she is getting together. Beth, one of the women I met this weekend, is one of Christine’s the models. When talking about this with our group the idea was born to ask Christine to take a group picture. The idea was for us to be topless just wearing jeans. Christine agreed so with 7 women we went up to her room all a little nervous but ready.
A Washington Post reporter got wind of our idea and asked to be present with her photographer to shoot some shots for the paper. (Check out the result on: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/gallery/070227/GAL-07Feb27-66218/index.html
For the story go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/27/AR2007022701360_pf.html )
After a few minutes of giggling and being uncomfortable we took off our tops and grouped together in front of the background screen. Christine started shooting and we loosened up. We had a few full group shots and then split up in 2 small groups to get some more. The experience was great and my surprise was big when I checked the Washington Post on Wednesday and found my back site in the paper.
After this it was of to the reception followed by diner and dancing. My reports about the meals are limited due to the fact that Sunday morning I started to feel sick and later found out the Norwalk virus was making a lot of us sick. I tell you: that’s about the worst thing possible, send a group of cancer survivors home with nausea.
I started Sunday of with a short workout still blaming the discomfort on the (few) drinks the night before. After a small breakfast I did make it through the morning sessions on Sunday but I didn’t find them very interesting. The combination of Dr George W. Sledge with Dr Silver for an “Ask the expert panel, wasn’t very strong. I feel a geneticist would have been a better combination with Dr Sledge.
At this time another problem started to present itself: snow, and lots of it! I was supposed to go and meet my friend Beth and her son David for lunch but the snow made this impossible. Good thing because I would have felt terrible if I had given the little guy the virus.
The airport was still open but planes didn’t leave on time and some flights where cancelled altogether. Since I didn’t have an assigned seat I decided to go early and see. This ended up a good idea because even though only one NWA flight to MN was cancelled the others were very full and delayed. By this time I was feeling like crap starting to wonder what was going on with my insides. I had to wait about 4 hours and just hang around trying to sleep a little while hugging my personal items. The airport was very busy so there was no place to kind of stretch out and get comfortable. Finally it was time to board about 2 hours late, but once we were on our way it was all good!
Deb picked me up and after dropping my bags in the living room she dropped me in bed. It was only 8 something but I was done with the day.
The virus stuck with me a couple of days and I was relieved to receive the e-mail with the info that I was not the only one getting sick, so I knew what was happening.

Despite this I had a great time and met some amazing young survivors! It’s a sad thing that brought us together there in Virginia but it good to be amongst other young breast cancer survivors. So much positive energy coming from these amazing women! Talking about LIVESTRONG!


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