Guest Blog Post – 2
By Mike Warren
October 2022, Newfoundland and Labrador
There are numerous stories, facts and figures about cancer and its impact on people, including their families and friends. While we might want to wish cancer away or ignore it, that’s not the best approach. We should learn about it, talk about it, and take action to be ready when it arrives at our door. And in one way or another it will arrive. That is why I attended the Public Conference on Cancer.
The conference was organized by the Public Interest Group on Cancer, led by Dr. Sevtap Savas a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University. Held on October 15, 2022 it included presentations on topics such as cancer care, hereditary cancer, childhood cancer, and cancer screening. Other topics included social, financial and other support services for individuals affected by cancer.
Let’s face it, most of us have experienced, or will experience, the pain and grief of cancer. It could happen to a mother, father, sibling, niece, nephew, or a friend. The list goes on. Cancer hits hard when it’s someone you love – or it’s you. My sisters have beaten it. They are among the first people I know who benefitted from an early diagnosis. My beautiful niece fought very hard against triple negative breast cancer, but lost her fight at the age of 36. She left behind a grieving family including two young children. Other people special to me continue to fight.
To better understand what drew me to the Public Conference on Cancer, I need to say a bit about my perspective and interest. While I have not had a cancer diagnosis, I’m being monitored for prostate cancer; the blunt reality for men over 50. Over the last few years, I’ve also learned through personal experience about the risks associated with Cancer Predisposition Syndrome (CPS). That’s a scary title! It means that people can have a greater risk of developing some cancers because of a mutation in their gene structure. It’s part of their heredity – past and future. My gene mutation is RAD51C which I’m still trying to get my mind around. I also participate in the FIT screening program for colon cancer.
Finally, and important for me, I’ve had the wonderful experience of being a Patient Partner in healthcare research on genetic-related cancers, among other topics. I’ll use this opportunity to thank the good people at NL SUPPORT and my colleagues on their Patient Advisory Council. Through their help and guidance over the last six years, I’ve increased my knowledge of health and healthcare research.
Having attended many conferences over the years, I find that you never quite know what you will get when you sign up. This is particularly true for healthcare and medical conferences. For a lay person, some presentations can scramble your brain with medical terms, jargon, and academic research findings and processes. But the word “public” drew me to this one. I had high hopes for simplicity, good news, and most importantly good information. I got it. Many thanks to those who brought their personal stories; some with heart-warming passion, and some with pain and grief. Those stories will stay with me for a long time. Personal note: when you attend a conference on cancer, you have to accept that it can trigger memories of grief, sadness, and even anger. It did that to me.
Based on my perspective, I learned many things from the conference. I emphasize that these are things I learned. I’m sure everyone took away their own memories and learnings based on several factors, including where they live, their culture, gender identity, and their own cancer experience – positive and negative. I hope everyone took away information they can use in their lives.
Here are the top five things I learned:
1. Cancer patients and their families have to be their own advocates for diagnosis, treatment and support. You can’t rely on others to do it for you.
2. Cancer patients are not alone! There are many healthcare professionals to help patients and their families with their needs, including physical, social, and spiritual. Government and non-government programs, services and other resources are also available.
3. Two important areas of cancer research are early detection, and the role of gene and genomics in cancer (e.g., CPS).
4. Cancer screening is critical for early detection and treatment especially breast, colon, prostate and cervical cancer.
5. Don’t pass off symptoms. Talk to a healthcare professional about them.
Thanks to all those who organized, participated in and funded the conference. A special thanks to those who shared their personal stories. While it might not have been easy, please know that it added greatly to the value of the conference.
I hope these public conferences continue. After all, knowledge is power. We all need to be ready when cancer comes to our door.
Thanks for reading. Have a great day!
Disclaimer: Guest blogs are the purposes of education and/or sharing perspectives. The information shared by bloggers should not be interpreted as medical advice. All health information should be discussed with your health care provider.