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Posts Tagged ‘cancer conference’

Last year I attended the National Conference of Cancer Self-Help Groups (NCCSHG for short) cancer conference, and in doing so I missed my sons’ school fete day. This year they clashed again and the boys came first, but I was still able to go to the cancer conference 2010 for one day – dashing up to Manchester and visiting family as well!
Even though I was only at the conference for a short time, it felt very different from last year. I already knew where to go, recognised some faces (and some remembered me too), and felt altogether more relaxed. I guess I’m like most people – I prefer places and people I know. But if I hadn’t been prepared to attend last year for the first time then I would have been missing out, as this is a truly excellent event.
I’ll be reporting back my impressions and comments on the sections of the conference I did take part in over the next several weeks – in fact it may take the whole summer as there is so much to think about!
My first impression though is that for me there was a theme to the conference. It wasn’t an official theme, just something that came up a few times and meant something to me. The theme was ‘Who Am I?’
This is an issue that can come up for someone with cancer as their world and self-image is rocked – and this has a knock-on effect for everyone around them. It is an issue for friends and family as their role alters, sometimes dramatically if they are thrust into a caring role. I’ll be looking at these issues in more depth in future posts, but for now I would be interested to hear your stories. How was your self-image affected by cancer diagnosis or treatments? Was it someone else who felt all at sea and that affected you? Please share your story as a response to this post, or feel free to email me.

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I’ve just returned from the MacMillan Cancer Voices conference, where the issue of cancer advocacy was explored in detail. So what does it mean? What is cancer advocacy?
To put it a more straightforward way, cancer advocacy is about speaking out. Telling about your experience as a patient or family member helps in many ways. It lets the medical profession know about what they are doing right – and what can be improved upon. It helps organisations like MacMillan and Families Facing Cancer know what your issues are, so they can provide services or lobby for change (such as the recent scrapping of charges for drugs for people with cancer in England). It also lets others know that they are not alone in their struggles, which can provide some peace of mind at a difficult time.
Hearing stories at the conference brought home that much has changed in the medical treatment of cancer since the early 1990s when my mother was ill. There is much less in-patient treatment, people go home earlier after surgery and chemotherapy is likely to be administered on an outpatient basis. These changes are generally welcomed by those receiving treatment. More changes are likely to follow in the years to come, and health services are taking note of the wishes of their service users more than has ever been the case in the past. It seems that speaking out does make a difference.
It does take courage to speak out – courage to talk about an illness that can involve parts of the body we don’t normally mention; courage to examine relationships and the effect the illness has had on them; and courage to relive emotions which may have pushed you to the edge. Those at the conference, though, would be keen to tell you what they have gained from their advocacy. They gain confidence from putting themselves forward and having their views valued. They gain a sense of purpose – especially if by talking about something that went wrong for them, they can prevent it happening to another. They gain a sense of community by joining with others to make a difference. Living in the ‘world of cancer’ when you don’t have to may seem an odd choice to make. But it is not the depressing world you might imagine. One of the newest Cancer Voices at the conference said with a hint of wonder – ‘I never expected it to be fun!’ Of course it is the people that make it so, but also the ability to make a difference.
You can join in too – by emailing us at Families Facing Cancer to let us know what issues you need addressed, or by signing up as a Cancer Voice with MacMillan. We want your voice to be heard.

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