Meet, Connect, and Inspire – C4YW 2011

I recently had the opportunity to attend C4YW, the Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer. Organized by Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), over 700 young women gathered in beautiful, sunny Florida at the Orlando Convention Center to meet, connect and get inspired. This was not my first time at this conference, but it never fails to move me when I see other young women going through what I went through after my breast cancer diagnosis… and meeting the challenges head-on with courage and grace.

Attendees of the 2011 Conference for Young Women.

The weekend is jam-packed with workshops and plenary sessions featuring leading national medical and psycho-social professionals.  Friday afternoon included a welcome reception and time to tour the extensive expo with info booths from all over the country displaying the latest breast cancer medical, psycho-social information, as well as breast cancer fashions, jewelry, high-risk groups info, etc… Friday night was the very popular pajama party “The Ultimate Girls Night In with Pure Romance”- where in a relaxed setting you can laugh and open up about the very real issues around intimacy and a breast cancer diagnosis.

Saturday morning started strong with opening remarks by Jean Sachs, CEO, LBBC; Shelley Fuld-Nasso, Director, Public and Medical Affairs, Susan G. Komen for The Cure; and Central Ohio’s own Anna Cluxton, President, Board of Directors, YSC. We went right into the Plenary session with Dr. Anne Partidge of Harvard/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute giving the medical update. Following each plenary session, there is always a Q & A opportunity. I really admire the young women who stand up and ask relevant questions so eloquently. Then there were over 15 workshops to chose from over the three days. Topics included Breast Reconstruction, Fear of Recurrence, Fertility & Pregnancy, Healthy Living, Food and Fitness, Survivorship Care Issues, Sexuality and Intimacy Issues, and many others.  All information presented will be available online and to download on podcasts.

While C4YW is foremost an educational conference, I love how there are many ways to connect in a more personal way. At registration, every attendee picks a lei in the color corresponding to number of years since diagnosis.  Green for less than 1 year, pink for 1-5 years, etc.. In this way, throughout the weekend you can see who is wearing the same lei color, and know that they might be at a similar stage of treatment and recovery. Before each plenary session, there is a “Sharing My Story” speaker, given by a young survivor who recounts her personal journey with breast cancer.  There are massages available during breaks for women going through chemo, book signings by the authors and for the early risers, a yoga class to start each day.  Saturday night was the ever-popular DJ, Dancing and Desserts party. Everyone gets a chance to relax, cut loose and even do the traditional “chicken dance” in remembrance of a young survivor who passed away a few years ago…. she had always wanted to do the “chicken dance” at her son’s wedding.

Our group of 10+ young women from Ohio got to meet and support each other during the weekend. The time together gives us a unique opportunity to bond and form connections that will last for a long time. The information I learned and brought back will help me immensely in my work with local breast cancer survivors and planning educational programming. Thank you to Komen Columbus… Megan, Katie and the Board… for your support of C4YW and for allowing me to take advantage of such an empowering educational opportunity.

Guest post by: Medha Sutliff
SASS for Breast Cancer Coordinator, Licking County Health Department
Leadership Council/Programming Chair, YSC Central Ohio