Thursday, July 21, 2011

MD Anderson, Together in Hope Brain Tumor Conference 2011

I had the privilege of attending my first brain tumor specific conference at MD Anderson last weekend and it left quite an impression on me. It was co-sponsored by MD Anderson Cancer Center and the National Brain Tumor Society. Personally, I like it when two monster organizations collaborate on events and show unity against a common foe! It seems like I always find a handful of young adult survivors at these conferences! We tend to gravitate towards each other because we totally stick out. It may be due to the fact that we're the ones that tend to be the loudest and have the most "spunk" at these conferences. Whenever I go to these things, I feel like I'm crashing a "grown-up" party. I'm always happy to come across a fellow young adult survivor because we are familiar with what the other has been through and are eager to "celebrate" life. It makes me want to celebrate because you go from feeling alone to having someone there who understands. Young adult survivors are too young to get grouped in with the older cancer patients our grandparents age and too old to be grouped with the pediatric population. In the young adult population, many of us are still trying to find our life path or are just starting our families. A tumor or cancer diagnosis can seriously derail our plans or limit our potential.

This weekend made me realize that we can fight back. Emotional support for survivors is growing. Survivors are getting stronger through the numerous programs out there, but I think it is time to mount a counter attack directly on these diseases. Unity for survivorship is very prominent, I think that concrete strategies are just now developing to fight these diseases. Then it reinforced a weapon that we can use to fight back against these diseases... RESEARCH. I don't think people really understand it, but this is the best way. People walk charity walks and hold fundraisers, but what exactly are you supporting? Stand Up to Cancer and the Brain Science Foundation are taking the lead in this charge. I personally think a "cure" is still a long ways away, but I think we have the resources to more effectively manage the symptoms to live with these diseases. As a physical therapist, I know that we can't always heal a chronic orthopedic issue, but we can offer strategies to help manage them.

I think that we will have an easier time controlling the diseases through:
  1. early diagnosis,
  2. lifestyle modification (diet, exercise),
  3. medication, or
  4. surgery
I think this is a more efficient approach to the war on cancer rather than finding an absolute "cure" for tumors or cancer. In a way, I think we can make these diseases our "beeeee-ooootch" by more efficiently managing the symptoms! HAHAHA!

Anyways at the conference at MD Anderson, I was able to connect with so many amazing people: survivors with incredible stories, doctors/health care professions who devote their lives to helping brain tumor patients, and philanthropists who work tirelessly to fight these horrible diseases. The most memorable thing that I will take home from the conference was meeting so many people similar to me face to face! I've been to cancer conferences and meningioma meetings, but the informal interaction with the participants at this conference made going all the way to Houston worth the energy. Although I am physically tired, I'm emotionally recharged! TUMORS SUCK! Wait till you see what mAss Kickers Foundation is up to...

*originally published on May 24, 2011 @ 8:06

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