On Saturday I attended the OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults held at the Altman Building in New York. With me were other cancer advocates and survivors from across the United States, including the founder and CEO of the cervical cancer organization I work with Tamika & Friends, Tamika Felder, and Patti Murillo-Casa, President of the New York Chapter of Tamika & Friends.
Matthew Zachary, CEO of “I’m Too Young For This!” kicked off the festivities with his hilarious speech highlighting the many changes that have happened since last year’s summit. Having attended many medical and professional conferences, the ease with which he spoke to the crowd as if we were all part of this one big family, was awesome. Keynote Speaker and CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jonathan LaPook, MD spoke openly about the need for continued education and awareness for cancer research, flaws in the way some medical professionals have approached and diagnosed their patients, and encouraging the audience to be their own health advocates.
I also had the opportunity to listen to Tamika speak in a panel called “Single with Cancer”. During her talk along with Sage Bolte, Jonny Imerman and Tracey Maxwell, I could easily relate to certain points they brought up. Although I am not a cancer survivor, I understand the pressure to be married once you reach a certain age, along with the thoughts women may naturally have in the back of their minds to have children once they reach a certain age. Now add a cancer diagnosis and having to worry about whether you are still able to have children because the treatments you needed to save your life may have affected your fertility on top of that, and I had to hold back my tears. I sat in the back of the room and glanced at all these young cancer survivors my age who DO have that as a part of their new reality and realized yet again how precious life is and how the general public needs to become aware of all these issues that go beyond a cancer diagnosis. Tamika hit it on the nail though when she spoke, she said to the cancer survivors “we are not damaged goods” and to “love yourself first”.
Afterwards, I ran into fellow DPT, brain cancer survivor, author and mAss Kickers Foundation founder, Eric Galvez. We were friends on facebook but never met, so it was great to finally chat with him. We easily bonded over the pains of school and he really is an inspiration to me (and to many others) when you appreciate how much he has accomplished at such a young age. Some of the other sessions at the OMG! Cancer Summit included Families & Parenting, and Employment, Legal & Insurance. I was sad to miss day 2, but if I have learned anything it is to listen to my body, and it was requiring rest!
Through Facebook and twitter, I was also able to connect with some cervical cancer patients, survivors and advocates who were in the same room. I was receiving tweets like, “I’m sitting behind you in the black shirt”. Oh the joys of social media! Everyday I am learning something new about cancer, please go out and do the same if not to at least educate yourself.
Finally, always listen to your body xo
|With DPT Eric Galvez and friend.
|With Tamika Felder, Matthew Zachary and Patti Murillo-Casa
|Patti and I with Dr. Jonathan LaPook, MD