Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) recently held its Annual Fall Conference in Philadelphia. Thanks to a travel grant from event sponsors, I was able to attend the conference themed “Breast Cancer Today: Individual Treatments, Shared Experiences.” I was also asked to share my own experience on a Triple Negative Breast Cancer discussion panel.
The thing I enjoy most about attending breast cancer conferences is the opportunity to connect with others who share the experience of coping with the disease. This year’s LBBC Fall Conference was certainly no different. However, as I near my 4-year canceversary, I felt very different.
I attended my very first breast cancer conference (C4YW) as a 9-month survivor still undergoing reconstruction. I remember that conference being the first time I connected with other survivors like myself. I remember being surrounded by nearly 1,000 survivor sisters who understood what it was like to fight breast cancer. When they shared their experiences, I felt like they were living my life. I remember seeking out those 5+ year survivors. I wanted dearly to know they existed. I wanted proof that there was life after breast cancer. At that conference, I found hope.
Since that conference, I have attended several others and have made many lifelong connections along the way. So when I arrived in Philadelphia for the weekend, I found many familiar faces in the crowd. For some of us, we picked up right where we left off. For others, we were finally able to put a real face and a real hug to a Twitter handle or Instagram avatar. And for many others, we formed a new unbreakable bond.
As I sat on the TNBC discussion panel and looked around the room, I saw so many faces. Some scared, some filled with worry but also many smiles. As the panelists openly discussed our individual experiences with breast cancer, we drew many comments, questions and thanks from the crowd. It was on that panel that I realized what was different this time. I was now sitting where so many of these women battling this disease aspire to be — on the other side of treatment.
Coming up on my 4-year mark, I was proof that there is life after breast cancer. At this conference, I was hope.
To watch some of the recorded conference sessions, visit LBBC’s YouTube channel.