So picking up from Saturday night...it was another long night of muscle cramps and no sleep. My well laid plans of waking up, getting ready, having all my things packed were abruptly canceled when I woke up to banging on my door. Nateisha nad Danielle, not seeing me at breakfast and since I wasn't responding to their numerous texts and calls, took it upon themselves to come to my room and make sure I was ok! Thankfully I awoke, and was just able to make it to my first session.
The first session was "When Did Cancer Turn Me Into a Control Freak". I've always been a bit of a control freak, and all cancer did was show me how little I had control over. It was a very helpful session, and I hope to write more on it later.
The second session I attended was "Navigating College and Cancer." It was another excellent session. The presenter, Michele Rosenthal, drew from experience in academica, working with a college junior diagosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, and now currently volunteering at Dana-Faber to present how we should advocate for ourselves in college. While I'm currently doing everything she said, having this information when I first started college would have been really nice. She concluded her presentation with short paragraphs written by other academians, so it was really neat to "hear" their perspectives as well on how they perceive and deal with kids with cancer. The session also brought together a lot of us around the same age range. About half the group was starting their masters; a quarter of the group was on medical leave, or just going to begin college, and the last quarter of us were currently in college.
After the session ended, we grabbed the sandwhiches they had for lunch and then went to finish our packing. Danielle and I had a check-out of noon, but Amelia had her checkout at 1PM. She graciously allowed us to bring out things to her room, till we were ready to leave.
After that, Danielle and Nateisha were eager to go shopping, so we girls headed out. It was raining, so we were able to hop on the shuttle that runs down 16th Mile Mall. I got out at a souveniour store, while they went to Forever 21. I was able to get all my siblings t-shirts, and then we girls headed back to the hotel. Danielle and Steve were leaving on the 12:30 shuttle, while Amelia, Nateisha and I were leaving on the 1:30 shuttle. I got my bags and headed to the Concluding Ceremonies for a little while. I walked in a few minutes after it had started, to Matthew Zachary playing on the piano. He graduated college with a piano degree, and had been accepted to a masters program, when he found out he had brain cancer. Doctors said he would never play again, and wouldn't even live past 5 years max. It was a beautiful piece, and wonderfully executed. Toward the end, suddenly he stopped playing and said "Never let anyone tell you you can't do something." and ended on a dramatic chord. It was awesome. Here he was, going on 20 years survivor, and just played the piano for over 600 attendees. One of the most inspiring performance I've ever heard.
They played a slideshow of the weekend, and then introduced Italia Ricci, who was one of the key note speakers. Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after a Q&A time with her began, but it is really cool to see all she is doing to advocate for us.
As I went to meet Amelia and Nateisha, I overheard a lady and two gentlemen having a conversation about stupid cancer. They were trying to figure out what it was about, and when they saw my name tag they asked me about it. I was happy to explain the movement to them, and what we are about. Their question was what was the majority of the group, survivors or "other" people. They were very surprised that the group was majority survivors, and that the organization and leadership are almost all survivors. I was kinda surprised that they were surprised, but it made me realize how special this group is.
Next we headed to the airport. Most of the shuttle were CancerCon attendees, so it was nice to meet a few more people as we left. At the airport, we all enjoyed some Haagen-Daaz, as a final celebration of our time at CancerCon.
A little note about the flight back home...many of you probably read my post on the flight into Denver. I was in a ton of pain on that flight. Given the cramps and muscle spasms I'd had the last few nights, I was VERY nervous about the flight back home. I had asked some of my friends and my family to pray that I would be OK on the flight. God really answererd prayers! We had all switched seats, so we could be close to each other, and I had switched to an aisle seat, so I could get out easily if necessary. Nateisha was by the window, and then we were to have a random person in the middle. I wasn't sure how it would be, having a random person, but we were blessed to meet Maria. Her husband passed away from liver cancer, so she was most understanding about our own circumstanes. Also, she is an electrical engineer, and we had several fantastic conversations on engineering, pharmaceuticals, the politics of cancer, and women in engineering. It was a very good flight, as I didn't feel too bad, and had great conversations with Maria to distract me from the pain.
We landed in Cleveland ahead of schedule. On the way out, Steve noticed David Blatt, and called out a "Hi Coach" along with congratulations on the great game. For those of you like me, who had no idea who David Blatt is, he is the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they had just defeated the Boston Celtics.
My entire family (plus Tessa!) had come to pick me up. It was fun to talk with them on the way back home, and then divy up the loot at home. It is always so good to be back with them.
Well, that basically sums up CancerCon! I hope to do a few more detailed posts on the sessions in the near future, as time allows. Thanks for joining me on the ride!