So. Yeah. I did actually go to a conference about cancer.
Yes, it is a real thing.
No, people didn't wear costumes.
Yes, it was fun.
Yes, I want to go back.
So, before I went, I thought I'd come back and share a lot of information. I thought I'd come back and feel educated. It was almost as if I was gearing up to go back to school.
While I did get a lot of information, and I did learn some new things, there was so much more to this conference than I knew to plan for: the richness and the depth of the conversations with other people that I would have.
I mean, I knew I'd have to talk to people. I knew I'd get to meet people, but I figured it would all be kind of superficial. I mean, there were over 600 people there, so many things going on, sessions to attend, SWAG to grab, etc, etc.
And somehow in the midst of all of this, there were some really deep and powerful conversations, at least for me.
Maybe, because everyone there is connected to cancer so the small talk was skipped? Except, there was a fair amount of talk about the weather - lots of snow, some rain, many clouds, and the sun came out just as we left for the airport ride home! But still, you had the standard my name is Brandie. I'm from Chicago. Oh yes, I was afraid I'd die.
There aren't many people you get to jump from your name to a big fear with. And no, it wasn't depressing - I realize it may sound like it, but it wasn't. In fact, it was the opposite.
I left the conference feeling lighter. And feeling stronger. And with some truths realized that were uplifting.
I met a lovely woman Cindy. Cindy left me feeling peaceful and calm. She helped me see a strength in myself I hadn't seen before. And she encouraged me to take some time to look back to see how far I've come. I've been avoiding this. I didn't want to look back because I knew what I'd see - the same thing I've been saying around these parts - that I'm still stuck 5 years ago. Except, I'm not. I'm actually not. I know, I'm shocked too. That's not to say I'm not stuck in some sense. And that I don't have more progress to make. All of that is true. But it's also true that I'm human and while some days feel like two steps forward, one step back, that means the net gain is one step forward. And I'm doing that - even when it doesn't feel like it. Amazing!
I ate lunch with Kari. Kari was one of those wonderfully energetic, just exudes energy, and makes you want to just sit by her and soak it all up kind of people. After talking to her for a while, I was ready to just go out and change the whole entire world. I often joke that I wish I could bottle my 10-year-old's energy up and just have half of it. I think Kari figured out how to do that. I want to be that kind of force in the world. It might take some serious naps and caffeine, and I'll have to do it my way, but watch out world. I'm ready to make some waves. They might be teeny-tiny ones, but they'll be mine none-the-less.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I could tell you about Jonathon, and Lori, and both Jennifers, and Matt, and Melissa, and Colleen, and Dan and several dozen other people.
I could tell you about tears and laughter - sometimes only seconds apart. I could tell you about all the hugs I received and gave. I could tell you how more than once I would (literally) squee as I saw people I've connected with on-line before this conference in person, and how I'd run over and say hey! I'm a stalker - but not really - on twitter/instagram and can we take a picture? and how everyone was like okay! I could tell you how I got a makeover, and while when I looked in the mirror and felt really pretty on the outside, after talking to my hair stylist and the photographer, I felt really beautiful on the inside too. I could tell you about how I left wondering, once again, if I have a book inside me. I could tell you about playing duck, duck, goose. I could tell you several hundred other stories. And maybe someday I will.
But today, today, the most important aspect of CancerCon to me is the connections I was able to make with people. Connections with new friends, deeper connections with old friends.
Which might just be perfect. Because 5 months ago, I decided my word for the year was connection. I didn't walk into CancerCon thinking about that, but I certainly walked away with the word buzzing around my head and my heart.
The weekend was about connection. And all the feelings that made me feel. The love, the laughter, the sadness, the tears, the fatigue, the energy, the empowerment, the shock, and the understanding. All these feelings led to the connections.
It was amazing.