A month or two ago someone recommended that I apply for a travel grant to go to the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Metastatic Conference. I wasn't sure if it was something that I was ready to go to or not, but I figured that I could always apply for the grant and make my real decision then. I did receive the grant which paid for plane, hotel, and conference registration, and I attended the conference in Philadelphia this weekend.
When the conference started and I teared up as they asked people who were newly diagnosed with mets to stand and/or wave, then 1-5 year survivors, 5-10 year, and up to over 20 years, I was still very worried that I would be an emotional wreck the entire time. At the same time, seeing 8 out of 200 women being 10-15 year survivors and 2 women being 20+ year survivors filled me with a sense of relief that "hey, this room alone shows that those stats are wrong!" The first day was filled with lots of information about research studies and new medications or combinations of medications that were in the works. Today, I got more down to earth information about dealing with the day to day parts of living with mets. Some of my favorite nuggets from today are:
*Find something that gives you hope every day
*Remember that you aren't really enjoying the ride if you are constantly worrying about when the ride will end
*Live life from important event to event not from scan to scan or bloodwork/tumor markers,etc..
*Remove the cancer goggles and remember that some things would happen or not happen whether you have cancer or not, and to not attribute everything to the cancer
*Everyone's journey and situation is unique so use their experiences to help you, but don't judge your experience by theirs
*"Pack" only what you need for today -- don't worry about what you'll need tomorrow b/c you can repack for that tomorrow morning.
One of the best parts of the trip was meeting several other ladies that live with mets and just getting to talk about it. I have talked to some other women online, but meeting people in person was very helpful. Unlike in many support groups, we weren't the scary horror story of what might happen to you, and so we could not worry and know that others understood. I also got the opportunity to spend more time and do some sightseeing with a couple of women from South Dakota, and I was very appreciative of the time we spent together.
I'm in the Philly airport now and will soon be boarding my plane. I was very worried about this trip, but I am so thankful that I took the leap to make it. It has truly been a blessing to me.