On Oct. 29th, I attended the Stupid Cancer: OMG! Cancer Summit West 2016 conference. They specifically support young adult cancer survivors, patients, advocates and caregivers.
The conference was about young adults from all walks of life who were forced to have cancer. In my opinion, about 95% of the people at the event had a cancer related illness, were about to start chemotherapy treatment or just finished chemotherapy treatment.
When I arrived at the event in Orange, CA. I began walking to the building where the event was going to be held and I felt a since of calmness surrounding me like “I found my Garden of Eden.” For example, I looked around and people were just like me and for the most part a since of loneliness was lifted from me.
When I finally made it into the building, the Stupid Cancer staff gave me a tote bag full of Stupid Cancer merchandise, such as a wristband, a pen and a portable USB charger for my cellphone among other things.
The conference started with the CEO and founder of Stupid Cancer, Matthew Zachary, and he is also a brain cancer survivor. He presented a slideshow showing the audience the ups and downs of his journey with the disease. He explained it took him seven years to meet somebody who had cancer like him because before then he felt alone.
He said, “Cancer sucks a whole lot more when you are not 80,” and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Stupid Cancer prides themselves on being probably the only company who has a hand with the middle finger up on their wristbands.
Stupid Cancer is probably the only company that brings young adult cancer survivors, patients, advocates and caregivers together in one place. To check out their website and more pictures from the OMG! Cancer Summit West 2016, click here: http://www.stupidcancer.org/
The second segment of the conference was about speaker Emily McDowell, who is also a Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer survivor. One of the things she said was a young person feels alone and isolated when they have cancer.
I also connected with her story about quitting her job in advertisement. She quit because she read an article about doing what she loved as a child, which was drawing and writing.
Like me when I quit applying for jobs and decided to become an inspirational speaker. I decided my passion for writing and my love for sharing how the inFAMOUS videogame franchise and superhero Cole MacGrath helped me believe that Nothing is More Powerful Than a Made-up Mind was more important than getting a job within corporate America.
McDowell also makes empathy cards to make cancer patients seen, heard and understood. Her cards resonated throughout the world, which was way more than she ever imagined.
In the future, McDowell said she would love to see more peer support, and for people to be open minded when talking about people who had experiences with cancer. She explained people don’t need to be scared to open-up about the disease.
The third segment of the conference was about a Mother and her two Daughters. Their names were Sage Bolte, Executive Director Life With Cancer, Erin Bolte, Nutritionist and Soozi Bolte, Psychotherapist.
They spoke about caring for your body, mind and spirit after dealing with cancer. When it comes to food, they suggested to buy organic foods. For meat, buy organic meat, such as beef, chicken or fish. They also said to read the label of what you are going to buy, and to remember that the less ingredients a product has, the better it is for you.
Appetites change when anxiety, stress or depression starts to happen (When I am depressed, I notice that I eat more than I usually do). They suggested to learn how to control and listen to your body because it has changed because of the side effects (chemotherapy) that comes with having cancer.
Stressful reduction means that over time, the more you practice your awareness, you will control what you focus your attention on. Mindfulness doesn’t prevent the trauma from happening, put it helps you manage it.
Trauma is any type of experience with the inability to cope. Whether it is relationships or friendships that disintegrate or in my case and the others present at the conference: having to deal with cancer and when I became a hip amputee.
The one thing they said is that most cancer survivors deal with is being grateful, but still struggle with being unhappy. For instance, I’m grateful for God sparing my life and that I’m still alive, but the struggle of being a hip amputee sucks. The three women concluded their speech and said to focus on what is more positive because it elevates your mood.
The fourth segment of the conference was about integrative medicine and long term side effects. The speakers were Sage Bolte, Exec. Dir., Life With Cancer, Veronica DeRosa, Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Lilibeth Torno, Clinical Director, ACTS Program and Ruth McCarty, Clinical Director.
They spoke about the effects cancer patients go through after treatment is over. They explained even though the treatment may be over, the journey of the physiological and psychological effects was just beginning. They explained that acupuncture and Chinese medicine could help with these effects.
The fifth segment of the conference was about communicating with friends and family while dealing with having cancer. City of Hope Social Worker Program Specialist, Ellen Polamero gave the audience an overview of how to deal with friends and family.
For example, she gave examples saying that the way most people react to you during this time most likely has far more to do with them than you. She also said relationships will change and people will surprise and disappoint you, but most of this has nothing to do with you, but it could still be very painful.
The last segment was about the young adult survival panel, which were about Thea Linscott, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Ghecemy Lopez, Breast and Thyroid Cancer, Brian Yoke, Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stephen Heaviside, Testicular Cancer and Angela McCourt, Breast Cancer.
The one thing I took away from the survival panel that resonated with me was to do something. Do something that you are passionate about, something you used to do that made u happy, but put a twist on it so it makes sense for the person you are today.
The CEO and founder Matthew Zachary and EVP, Chief Program Officer of Stupid Cancer Alli Ward concluded the conference by saying we must learn to have a balance with cancer and survivorship.
Stupid Cancer has surpassed 6,000 attendees this year with their events. There are 17,000 cancer diagnoses a year and Stupid Cancer is an organization that was not available 10 years ago, but is here now to help all young adult cancer survivors, patients, advocates and caregivers, according to Zachary.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the OMG! Cancer Summit West 2016. I met some cool people and I could speak about my experiences and realities with them without judgments and they understood where I was coming from.
Thank you again Stupid Cancer for your generosity and hospitality,
Darryl C. Richie
* I didn’t get a chance to talk to everybody at the conference, but I still felt left out in a way because I lost my right leg to cancer. I was hoping to meet another amputee who lost their leg to cancer also.
* When I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in my right knee at 14 years old, I did chemotherapy treatment and had to get a knee replacement. When the cancer came back in my right knee at 17 years old, going through chemotherapy treatment again wasn’t as hard because I knew what to expect.
* The hardest thing I ever had to go through in life was losing my right leg and becoming a hip amputee at 17 years old. I don’t think I will ever be 100% comfortable being this way, because as I said before being a hip amputee sucks, but this is my reality every day and I must deal with it the best way I could.
* I overheard two people talking about their experiences with cancer, and the woman said she had the same cancer I did (Osteosarcoma) in her arm and I remember her saying, “I’m so glad I didn’t lose my arm.” When I heard those words, I felt my heart was going to jump out of my chest, because I had the same cancer she did but my outcome turned out to be drastically different.
* When I left the event, I started thinking about why God let me become a hip amputee, even though he did spare my life. Then I realized that me losing my right leg to cancer and being a hip amputee makes me unique, and gives me more credibility when I do my inspirational speeches because what I’ve been through is dramatic.
* When I present my inspirational speeches. I want to get across comparing my dramatic cancer story to my favorite superhero Cole MacGrath (inFAMOUS videogame franchise) whose origin story is also dramatic because he can control electricity.
* I connected to the more human side of Cole and how he looked at controlling electricity as a burden, like how I looked at myself having cancer twice as a teenager and becoming a hip amputee as a burden.
* I also realized that if I didn’t have cancer and lose my right leg the way I did during my teen years. I don’t believe I would be able to express and share the deep-rooted connection I have with the inFAMOUS videogame franchise and superhero Cole MacGrath when I perform my inspirational speeches.
I do not own any content from the inFAMOUS video game franchise. No Copyright Intended. All inFAMOUS content is copyright to their respective owners.
All inFAMOUS content is property of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), developed by Sucker Punch Productions.