Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Weekend learning

I had a great trip to Houston last weekend. I learned so much from others that have a similar diagnosis, and also from the leading doctors at MD Anderson.

My favorite part, though, was meeting several wonderful young women (30's) that are living with Stage IV cancer, raising children, making it through the yucky days, loving the good days... just like me. They came from all over, New York, Florida, Missouri, Virginia... I was shocked that the five or so women I grew close to ALL were diagnosed at stage IV. That is so sad to me. I guess logically, we did not have mammograms or have any awareness/prevention at all, so we all caught ours so late.

Most had been on the same drugs I have, similar surgery, go through the same tests. It is neat to meet people that live so far away, yet are so similarly treated. It gives me confidence in my treatment. It also is amazing to share something with women that know exactly what I am talking about. My family and friends can empathize, but only someone who has been there can fully know what I feel.

I now realize that I am missing out by not being in a support group here at home. I am actively looking for a young women's group here. I am also looking for one for the girls too. One woman I met said after her daughter went to a support group for kids, she came out saying to her mom, "That mommy has cancer, and that mommy does not have hair too!" They were so excited to meet a mom that was just like theirs, and they did not feel so different anymore.

I learned a lot about new treatments just around the corner. I understand various therapies better. I now understand all about stem cells and why they and cancer stem cells are so important. I heard over and over how targeted therapy is the future of medicine and how they can learn to target specific cancer cells and develop drugs just for them. I learned about new and different tests I will ask for. I learned how stage IV cancer is effectively treated as a chronic illness instead of a terminal one. And much more. I filled a tablet with information, and I am gearing up for a longer visit with my oncologist at my next appointment!

I know a lot of people were wondering why I went alone. First of all, most all of the women were alone at the conference. Some brought daughters or husbands, but they were in the minority. It was a good time for me. I am rarely alone and it was a good opportunity for some quiet time. Also, I so treasured my time talking with other cancer survivors that I think that would have been more limited or different with a non-patient there. I promise, I wrote down all the information I needed, and asked several questions. Also, the conference was recorded and will be available for streaming online soon.

It was such a blessing, I am already looking for another event! I think I found one through the Young Survivors Coalition in Florida in February.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Jessica

May you get all the wonderful blessings you so richly deserve.

Love to all,

Anita

Anonymous said...

You go girl! Glad to hear of the wonderful experience, and looking forward to hearing, very soon, about a local support group for you, the girls AND Jake. If you can't find one, make one!

Wishing you a great Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for all of my wonderful neices and nephews (and great neices and great nephews).

Love to all,
Aunt Janette

Chris Basden said...

Jessica - I have been keeping up with your site and praying for you always with the Lord leading. I was particularly touched by your update here because when I had to get a pacemaker last year at 41, I didn't know anyone my age that had one. I also wanted to find someone like me that hadn't had heart problems before who also was surprised by symptoms, diagnosis and the resulting surgery. I have met women my age through an online support group as well, not many but even just one that can relate to what I've experienced is enough. I love the prayers and support from everyone in my life, but being able to "chat" with someone that has been in my shoes makes a huge difference! Good for you girl!
Blessings-
Chris Basden