When Cancer Survivors Collide

This weekend I threw on my comfiest sequin travel wear and flew down to Orlando to the Young Survival Coalition’s Annual Summit where I was to be not only a participant, but a speaker.

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Fun side note about air travel in sequins– you will basically make the body scanner machine implode upon itself with alerts and require a thorough, full body pat down. God forbid my sequins take to the skies when my 9 year old is mere years away from being legally allowed to buy an assault rifle on his lunch break from school. But I digress.

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Taking to the skies as a woman with lymphedema means that I get to deck my arm out in its very best compression garments so as to not allow fluid that my body no longer has the capability to filter to settle in my left arm.

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Did I travel on a public airplane wearing a shirt with my OG breasts on it? SURE DID.

I traveled with Rachel Pikelny, the Director of GRACE the Documentary. We may or may not have had a cocktail before noon, but at altitude time is but a construct. She chose me as a film subject. We could have ended up as collegial colleagues or even people who tolerate each other for the sake of a greater project. Either of those would have been normal outcomes. But by the Grace of GRACE, we have become lifelong friends, which is a gift.

Now, if you have read #grancer from the top, you may think I have garnered some level of acclaim, especially within the breast cancer community, but let me assure you, no one gives two lymph nodes about the Granc which was awesome because I was just like everyone else at the conference, a young woman with breast cancer.

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Literally no one knows me. It’s fine

The night we arrived was the evening that we debuted the documentary to the conference. The YSC did an awesome job publicizing the event and setting up the space. There were refreshments and cute little bags of popcorn. There were even chilled water glasses for each of us on the panel waiting at our seats.

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The film was to start at 8:30 and at 8:20 the room was empty. Ruh Roh. By 8:32, it was standing room only.

Now, I am moved every time I watch the film, but something different happened while watching it in a room filled with contemporaries, women who have walked the walk. The air felt heavier, the laughs louder, the tears more easily shed. The audience reacted in different places than at the other screenings. These women knew. They were all Grace.

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I need a speaking coach who can stop me from A. making this face and B. using my hands like the creep who is our President.

A lively panel discussion followed. Women who had the same disease I had were asking me questions as if I was some kind of authority when really, I was just like them except with a camera crew following me. It made me feel somewhat disingenuous.

There was a line of people wanting to take a photo with me afterwards. I was at my pinnacle of awkwardness throughout these interactions because as each woman handed her phone to someone to take a photo I am thinking, ‘You need to be the only woman in this photo. You are me and I am you. My face is interchangeable with yours, my suffering is your suffering. How can I graciously accept this praise when we fought the same monster?’

This is going to take some time to come to terms with. My disease and treatment were really no different from everyone else’s, but I suppose I get a little credit for allowing it to be captured on film?

To me that was easy. I just lived my life and they filmed. The hard part is knowing that my story now lives outside of my body. It will be shown for(ever?) to people who will inhabit my story and make it their own. Inevitably I will be judged for my decisions, judged for allowing my children to be filmed, judged for getting a tattoo. But that is what I signed up for and I need to just come to terms with the fact that the good this film will do will FAR outweigh any negatives.

Below I will share with you some of my photos from the conference so you can see how wonderful it was. Thank you YSC for setting up this opportunity for us to gather, share, support and love one another.

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Why does anyone trust me to speak on a microphone about anything?
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I met this magical mermaid woman when we walked out of our chemo rooms and basically ran to one another with our chemo poles as neither of us had seen another young person in the oncology ward. We became fast friends. So fun to have her at the summit too.
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Finally met Maria Collins of Dear Martha Her wares are so beautiful.
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‘Nuff said
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I love when I catch a glimpse of my mastectomy tattoo David Allen
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Any excuse for an Office Space reference
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I was really on board with this session until she told us at the end that none of us should ever eat dairy again. Bye, girl.
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This is going to be my new Insta & Twitter Bio
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First time anyone ever read a tweet I wrote! @homegrace
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Just wanted to leave you with my European shower in the hotel lobby bathroom after spending an hour in the hot florida sun and already having checked out of my hotel room. #Grancer always keeping it classy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I had so much FOMO watching the photos roll in on the insta feed this weekend! Next year: I will be there! I’m going to an MBC conference in April, something tells me it’s not going to be *quite* as lively as YSC.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patrick says:

    Grace –
    Great line: ” . . . let me assure you, no one gives two lymph nodes about the Granc . . .”
    It sounds like a very worthwhile conference, and you must have realistic feedback on the film. As you said, it could be any one of the attendees on the screen. GRACE will be nominated for an Academy Award — yes, a new category that you can name.

    Thank you once again for sharing your most personal journey.
    Your Dad would be so proud.
    Amen.
    Patrick

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m so proud of you. Thank you for all the kind and surprising things you do, just being you.

    Like

  4. Kate Cloud says:

    Grace, I’m so proud of you and all the kind and surprising things you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aunt Judy says:

    Love learning all about this. So proud of you. Words are not enough to express how amazed I am with the good that you and your fellow survivors are doing for all who are diagnosed and so desperately need the support.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. AnnaC says:

    First time to your blog and I am so glad we connected at YSC. Always amazing to meet other inspiring survivors doing badass advocacy work! @mycancerchic

    Liked by 1 person

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