I have been debating what to share about my experience at the YSC Summit in Oakland, CA since I returned home a week ago. I have responded to everyone’s questions with “I am still processing my experience.” Overall, it was a pleasant getaway for me, being on my own in the abnormally warm and sunny Bay area, connecting with the breast cancer community and spending time with my sisters. I have listed some of my insights from the conference below.
1. It was empowering being in the company of so many other women who understand, without saying anything, at least some of what I have been through. It was informative and engaging, listening to actual live speakers about topics and issues relevant to the breast cancer experience. It was also overwhelming and a bit sad. Being in a giant conference room filled with hundreds of women brought together by disease and struggle. Trying to connect in limited moments over heavy and complicated cancer challenges. Trying to absorb more information about treatment and cause.
2. Every room should have a window. Every session should have an ice-breaker and more question and answer time. I would’ve appreciated more time between speakers to rest and chat and get some fresh air and sunshine. It didn’t help that it was so nice outside and the whole thing took place in rooms that were varying sizes of dark cave.
3. Breast cancer is an industry of sorts. There were loads of non-profits and companies with tables sharing products and programs and information, from fake nipples to support programs, to the latest in genetic testing. It was a strange element that I didn’t have mental space to really participate in. The networking breaks built in to peruse it all were better spent for me sitting outside or chatting with a new friend.
4. Of the 650ish people attending, I was happy to connect with a handful of women, some that I had met virtually in an online support group, and a couple strangers that I happened to cross paths with. It sort of felt like being in college, the first days of a new semester, filled with both anxiety and excitement. There just wasn’t enough time and energy to navigate it all in a couple days. Just as I felt like I was settling into it, it was over.
5. Factoring in my long journey to get there, being away from my children/on vacation, and also spending time with my sisters in the area, it was a strange but worthwhile experience. Maybe better in some ways if I had stayed at the hotel and went to more of the events? Maybe better if I had just sat out some of the sessions? I don’t know if I will go again, but I am grateful to have participated.
6. Some of the speakers/presentations I enjoyed: Dr. Susan Love, Jeanne Rizzo RN, Laura Holmes Haddad (author and IBCer), Fear of Recurrence, Creative Finances, Lymphedema and Oncology Massage, Nutrition and Exercise.
A spontaneous porch haircut and a personal “Know your Lemons” photo shoot, inspired by my sister, awkward mullet chemo regrow, and the heat.