Early this year, my life literally changed. I know its cliché, but it’s true. I attended the YSC Summit in Houston, Texas, for three mind-blowing days. I was three years out from my breast cancer diagnosis and really had no connections with other young survivors. That is a very lonely feeling. I knew for me to really connect, I needed to commit to going to the YSC Summit, so I signed up.
I contemplated taking someone along with me, but I knew deep down I wouldn’t force myself to meet other women unless I went alone. I arrived on the first day feeling overwhelmed and anxious about being in a room filled with people I didn’t know. The opening ceremonies definitely put me at ease and I loved how everyone was so upbeat and friendly!
The best thing I did was join in on the BBQ dinner the first evening, and I just happened to find myself at a table with five amazing women. This experience altered the rest of my weekend. Being able to share my story and hear so many other candid women share theirs was humbling. I will forever be grateful to those women (you know who you are) who, with friendly smiles, started a conversation with me.
It’s not all fellowship. There are really smart people at the Summit to inform you, answer your questions and just get you thinking. The sessions were amazing. My absolute favorite was about dating, relationships and sex. Sometimes you need to be reminded that it’s OK. These issues around dating are normal and I think this was a big relief for me. I also enjoyed hearing about other forms of treatment for ER+ breast cancer. It reassured me that I was doing the right things for my diagnosis, and it reminded me to always be my own advocate.
Attending the YSC Summit post treatment was THE best thing I have ever done for myself. I feel like because I was done with treatment when I attended, I had a clear sense of where I was in my journey and that helped me take from the breakout sessions the information that was pertinent to my personal diagnosis and situation.
Another thing that I totally appreciated about YSC is they offered discounts and help to get to the conference. I signed up to do fundraising to attend and did much better than I thought I would. It just takes asking. With the fundraising, I received reimbursement toward travel expenses and I also took advantage of the airline discount codes. Don’t be afraid to fundraise; you could surprise yourself!
My advice to first timers is join in on the fun. Strike up conversation with others around you. They may turn into lifelong friends. Jump in on the icebreakers (as awkward as it may feel at first), go to the group dinners, participate in the group exercise classes and definitely don’t miss out on the last night’s celebration! Let this be three days when you don’t worry about being judged. This is a time to just be yourself.
My life changed at the Summit. I made the connections that I was missing for three years and it was great to feel “normal” for a few days. When you are in a room full of women, men, professionals and co-survivors who have lived through and experienced some of the same things and thoughts, it’s honestly a relief! I made some lifelong friends, these women inspired me to ride in YSC Tour de Pink West Coast last month and to start a Face 2 Face network in my area. That’s a life changed for the better!