Thriving after cancer
Nearly 300 adult and childhood cancer survivors and their family members attended the 6th annual Survivorship Conference on April 2 at the University of Minnesota to learn more about issues they may face after cancer treatment or stem cell transplantation. Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about new directions in cancer therapy; how to reduce the risk of recurrence and second cancers; sexuality after cancer; nutrition and healthy living; work and disability matters; medical late effects; integrative medicine and cancer survivorship. The emphasis of the conference was on educating and empowering survivors so they are better able to advocate for themselves to lead full and productive lives.
The conference opened with comments from Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D., after which attendees listened to breakout sessions led by medical and professional experts in different aspects of long-term survivorship. Childhood cancer survivors and family members participated in a panel discussion which raised other important issues for survivors’ long-term health and life goals. The conference concluded with a special theatrical performance of “Jonna’s Body,” a nationally acclaimed, emotional and comedic presentation that describes the inner world of performer Jonna Tamases’ body as cancer invades.
Seen and heard:
Childhood cancer survivor panel
Panel sponsored by Children’s Cancer Research Fund
Guests at the survivorship series conference had the opportunity to hear from three childhood cancer survivors as they shared their cancer-survivorship concerns and experiences. Led by Dr. Alicia Kunin-Batson, panelists included Katie Sonnichsen, Jeff Schultz and Ellie Beaver.
When asked what advice they have for families with a new diagnosis of childhood cancer, here’s what the panelists had to say:
“Be your best advocate. Take notes, do research and ask questions to make sure you’re getting the best care and treatments.”
He took the advice of a young woman he met while going through treatment which was, “Act as if you are cured.” He found that having this positive attitude made him feel like a “regular” young guy and kept his spirits up. Jeff also said that participating in speaking engagements and sharing his story has been very therapeutic in terms of processing his cancer experience.
“It won’t last forever, no matter the outcome, you will get through it and you are stronger than you might realize.” She also shared that, in addition to the horrible experiences, there are many positive things that will happen throughout your journey.