You are a young breast cancer survivor experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation after the initial relief of finishing active treatment. There are no more medical personnel or fellow patients in waiting areas to talk with and friends and family feel it is time you get back to the life that was side-tracked by breast cancer.
As a young survivor, where do you go with your fears of recurrence? Who do you share your feelings with about changes in body image? Who can listen to your concerns about your sexuality, your relationship issues, your ability to get pregnant? Which one of your friends or family can relate to what you are going through? Are friends and family members too uncomfortable to even listen to your fears and concerns?
Support groups, where they exist, reflect the fact that while women under 45 are diagnosed with breast cancer, more women are diagnosed later in life. Most women attending support groups are 45+ years and have different life issues than young survivors. Many young survivors use the Internet blogging to connect with and support each other.
Recently, I came across a conference for young survivors. If you can make the time, a conference is a great way to surround yourself with fellow survivors who understand exactly what you are feeling. A few days in the company of others with shared experiences is a great way to cut through the loneliness and feelings of isolation.
A few years ago, two national websites that provide education, support and resources for young breast cancer survivors came together to sponsor an annual conference just for young survivors.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and Young Survival Coalition (YSC) created a conference that caters to the unique concerns of young women, which may include more aggressive cancers, fertility, relationship issues and treatment-induced early menopause.
The Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer (C4YW) is an annual event. It is the only conference for women who are diagnosed with the disease before the age of 45 and those who care for them. For the past three years, young survivors, from around the US and internationally, have met as strangers and left as friends who continue to support one another via telephone calls and emails.
The 4th annual C4YW will be Friday, February 24–Sunday, February 27, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. Sessions will cover metastatic breast cancer, fear of recurrence, fertility and pregnancy, sex and intimacy, complementary and alternative treatments, single and dating, and long-term survivorship. There will be tailored workshops specifically for men only, lesbian partners and caregivers.
For those who qualify, financial assistance is available for travel and conference fees. To learn more about financial assistance and other conference details at c4yw.org.