Monday, November 14, 2011

Funky Sexy Manifesto #11 Attend the YACC Survivors' Conference

One of my survivors' resolutions was to attend the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) Survivors' Conference 2011 held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada this year from November 3rd to 7th. After attending the YACC Retreat Yourself East in Newfoundland this year, I knew immediately how much I wished to attend. The retreat was so healing and such a growth experience for me, I knew how much I wished to attend the conference. I also know a lot of my fellow cancer warriors did as well. Out of the 14 of us who attended the East retreat as participants, 7 of us attended the conference. This number does not include the supporters, staff, and facilitators who were at both the retreat and the conference. It was a YACC Reunion of sorts. Also, I had done some active fundraising for this event. The weekend prior, I organized a vegan bake sale (Funky Sexy Manifesto #36) which raised over $ 200 for the Climb, a 5 kilometre trek up to Parliament Hill. The proceeds help to cover travel costs for young adults all across Canada to attend YACC events.

I must admit that when I arrived I was a bit stressed out of my mind. It was report card time and I felt sleep deprived and a bit "off". (I've been going through a difficult transition and decision making process.) During the conference, I also had some weird stomach issues which I could only chalk up to anxiety and eating too many desserts that weekend. Nevertheless, I am so glad that I attended the conference. The conference consisted of a series of feature presentations, workshops, small group check-in/check-outs, social events, and the Climb. I truly appreciated the very relaxing yoga session which helped me to become more present and mindful in my body. The opening night mixer and the closing night dance were awesome. I was soooooo ready to shake my booty on the dance floor. I requested Work It! by Missy Elliott which was the song I woke up with in my head that morning. (Don't you love the high production value of Missy videos.)

I also appreciated the very inspirational talk by Geoff Eaton, the founder of Young Adult Cancer Canada (formerly known as Real Time Cancer), and his personal experience with recovering from leukemia in 1998 and his relapse a year later. Geoff left me with plenty of wisdom nuggets. He said that 1% is not 0% which were basically the odds he was given for survival. So he beat the odds. Also he said that remission is not healing. The way I take this to mean is since I am technically still in remission, I need to realize that I am still on the healing journey. I believe for thyroid cancer to be called technically "healed" is five years of remission. So Geoff's statement reminds me to be gentle with the demands that I put on my body, schedule, and energy. Lastly, he states that you need to make ample time for living and healing. To read about Geoff's amazing story, click here.

YACC founder Geoff Eaton, man can he dance

I also appreciated the guest speaker and workshop about Brain Fog by Dr. Heather Palmer, a researcher who talked about cognitive strategies to overcome this situation. I did not think I would benefit from her talk because I did not think I was a candidate for brain fog yet when I heard her describe the symptoms, I realized that many reflected my own current experience-- feeling of being in a fog and overwhelmed and difficulty with multitasking.

Here is a copy of my facebook status summary of the four days. I have also included the photos I took. You will notice some food photos. Well, this wouldn't be a healing journey/wellness/food blog without the vegan food that I had in Ottawa over the weekend which ranked pretty good.

Day 1 November 3, 2011
What a morning! Slept in 80 minutes (through my alarm), went all the way down to Union and still missed my train to the YACC Survivor's conference. Have to catch the next one. Came back home for breakfast. 48 views away from 25, 000 on my blog. Sipping my green tea. Really in need of a nap right now.

(By the way, I managed to exchange my ticket for a later train. I narrowly caught that train by 5 minutes due to a subway delay during rush hour. Ugh!)

Yay, my Blue Butterfly blog has had 25, 003 views as of 11:16am and I'm finding out while on a train halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. Isn't (some) technology wonderful.

Conference vegan food

Day 2 November 4, 2011
Day 2 of the YACC Survivor Conference. Feeling less anxious and tired and more invigorated and excited. So much to learn and to share.

Day 3 November 5, 2011
Day 3 and completed the 5km Climb to Parliament Hill. It's nice to be in Ottawa. I've had some amazing conversations and getting more "food" for the journey. Tossed some pennies into the Centennial Flame fountain and made a wish.

Josh and I having a philosophical talk. I met Josh at YACC Retreat Yourself East. He is a lymphoma survivor and was my resident plant-eater who was in my corner.

Making a wish before throwing my pennies in the Centennial flame and fountain.

The Ottawa Parliament Buildings at night

Day 4 November 6, 2011
Day 4 of YACC Conference. Finally woke up refreshed and went to the pool. Getting connected with other cancer survivors. Feeling synergy and ideas of great things to come. Tonight we dine and boogie.

The Thy'Ca Posse The only person missing was Shali, a YACC staff member, who also survived thyroid cancer. Here, I am pictured with Kourtney from Edmonton. She had medullary, a rare form of thyroid cancer, which is hereditary and traced by a gene. Being my roomie at the conference, I hope I didn't scare her over the four days.

All decked out in our regalia... Nicole, Julie, and I. We first met at Retreat Yourself East in Newfoundland this year. Nicole is a chordoma survivor who is mature beyond her years and genuine. Read her story here.

Can I get in on the Movember (November awareness for cancer's that affect men) action? If I don't wax, my upper lip, do I qualify? TMI (too much information)?

I am so glad that this restaurant allowed for BYODVC (Bring Your Own Damn Vegan Cheese). No, I'll change that D to Daiya cheese. They made the pizza with my own cheese from home, 5 hours away. I walked back to the hotel to get it from the freezer. No way, I'm going to go to Johnny Farina (Italian restaurant) and not eat cheese, even if I have to bring my own.

Julie and I tore up the floor that night. Julie is a breast cancer survivor who was inspired by my blog to start her own called Silverlups: life thru cancer and other hiccups. You can check it out here. I admire Julie for her creativity, genuineness, and fierceness. She walks to the beat of her own drum and is a great advocate for young breast and other cancer survivors in Nova Scotia.

Day 5 November 7, 2011
I left the YACC conference with an increased acceptance for myself and my circumstances as well as a renewed sense of purpose and what I need to do. Had some lovely company travelling with Bonnie and Julie. Back in Toronto. Nice to be in my own bed. Remission is not healing... Need to make time for living AND healing. Sooo much to think about and ponder. I am grateful for my teachers on this journey.

Bye bye, hotel suite.

I realize how much advocacy is needed for young adult cancer issues especially since this age group (15-39) is the only group not to see an increase of survival rates in 40 years. In addition, Although this year's conference had the most delegates, 80 in all, I know that there are thousands of young adults diagnosed with cancer each year in Canada. In addition, I was the only Black person in attendance which indicates to me that a lot of folks still do not know about YACC. I also realize that YACC is still a very young organization and outreach costs money so this is why I have chosen to use my blog as a space to promote and share information with you my readers.

I also realize how beautiful and genuine each of the survivors I met were in their own way. You never met a room full of such REAL people until you come to a YACC event.

Until the next main event. Bless.

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