Saturday, April 29, 2017

CancerCon Day 1

So. It's just after midnight. I'm sitting in a dark hotel room. One roommate is sleeping, the other is still out.

And here I sit.

Exhausted to the core, and yet still unable to sleep.

Not for the usual reasons though - no anxiety, no one who needs me to take care of them. Just me, sitting here, reliving today and smiling, knowing that being here is so important to me.

Today, the first official day of CancerCon was, well in a word, awesome!

Lots of laughs, lots of hugs, so many good conversations, and at one point, I folded myself into a suitcase (more on that later).

There was a lot of fun and games today. It will, at first glance, look like CancerCon is one big party in which we all come and just hang out and have a good old time.

And we do.


But there is more to it in that.
In the midst of the laughter, there are tears.

We party, but we share our stories. Sometimes these stories make us laugh. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes the stories are currently in a good spot. Sometimes these stories do not come with a happily-ever-after-ending.

We party, but we bond. We bond with people who have had cancer. We bond with those going through treatment. We bond with people who have rare cancers. We bond with people wh have our cancer. We bond with people who take care of people with cancer. We bond with mothers. We bond with fathers. We bond with daughters. We bond with sons. We bond with husbands and wives. We bond with doctors. We bond with advocates. We bond with representatives of companies.
Sometime we bond over shared music tastes, or we find another Doctor Who fan who wants to play Pokemon Go too. We bond with someone else who pulls out some knitting. We bond with someone else who is here for the first time. We bond with people who have been to almost every Stupid Cancer conference ever.
Yes, we bond a lot.

Because there's something here so many are lacking back at home: people like us. People who had cancer but don't look like a "typical" cancer talent (whatever that is supposed to mean). We are surrounded by people who don't say "But you can't get that cancer when you're young!" Because we're all young, or we were young, or we take care of someone is young. We have freedom to say things like "fuck cancer," or "cancer brought me some good things," or even "cancer was a gift to me." We toss around names of chemo, of drugs, of number of radiations treatments. We exchange stories about doctors who suck, doctors who go above and beyond, or about that one time we puked on the cute doctor!

Some of us are bald, some have short hair, some have medium hair, some have long hair. Some of us miss our normal hair and can't wait for it to grow back and some of us have discovered that damn, we look good with short hair!

We talk about pain management, of things that hurt, of things that don't hurt anymore. We mention we are going to take a break to get a nap in and no one says things like "geese, must be nice to nap" because we all know that no one wants to actually take a nap and miss what might happen because it's fun here, but our bodies are crying for rest.

We talk about anxiety and how we are scared the cancer will come back even though it's been a year, or two, or five, or nine, or eleven.

We talk about how our cancer is progressing even with treatment and we hope that we will still be around in a year, or two, or five, or nine, or eleven.

We talk about how lemons don't cure cancer. And if they did they'd cost a lot more money and probably not sold at a supermarket.

We talk about the people who took care of us. Or the people we took care of.

We talk.
And talk.
And talk.

And we listen.
And listen.
And listen.

And from the Instagram posts or from the outside looking in, it looks like a big party. But it's so much more. It's knowing you are not alone. It's knowing you aren't the only person struggling with the issues facing you. It's not being the youngest person in the room by 20 or more years.

It's about community.
And family.
And not being alone.
And yes, sometimes it's about partying and having a good time. Which means sometimes we been ourselves into a suitcase to get the points for the scavenger hunt for our team. And it's about handing someone a tissue as their eyes fill with tears.

Because we know.
Because we get it.
Because we are linked in ways we never asked to be linked, but now that we are, we can become friends and form relationships.

And that is a wondering thing.

Just think. This is only day 1! Wonder what day 2 will hold!

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