This week, I returned from Stupid Cancer’s sixth annual OMG 2103 Cancer Summit for Young Adults, a nearly four-day conference for young adult cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, professionals, and advocates. It’s the fourth year in a row I’ve attended this amazing conference, which began in New York City but has been held in Las Vegas for the past two years. Before you think this is some boring oncology event, think again. Here are 10 reasons why you should attend an OMG Summit:
1) People understand what you’re going through – You can drop words like neutropenia, stenosis, and metastasis without people asking you what they mean. No one cares if you have to zonk out in the middle of the day or can’t drink. You’re not the only one having a hard time losing weight, growing hair, or trying to find your way again after cancer. We’ve all gone through a lot and can relate with each other, share what we’ve learned, and make the whole crazy cancer and survivorship ride a little easier for each other.
2) You won’t be judged or pitied – No one cares that you have one testicle, no nipples, a bald head, a red scar snaking across your chest, or walk with a cane. We all have our battle scars. And it’s nice to finally say, “I have/had cancer” without someone giving you the pitiful “Awww, you’re too young… my cat has cancer too” spiel.
3) You’ll learn something new – With 25 breakout sessions and 50 speakers covering myriad topics for patients, survivors, and caregivers, you’ll arm yourself with plenty of knowledge, no matter if you’re newly diagnosed or 10 years out of treatment. From sex to survivorship, environment to insurance, and fundraising to fertility, there’s something for everyone. Many of the sessions are repeated so you don’t miss out on vital information. The speakers are not only top healthcare professionals, but advocates, caregivers, and survivors. Click here to see the panelists from OMG 2013.
4) You’ll be entertained – This isn’t your grandfather’s oncology conference. One of the biggest problems adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients and survivors have is age-appropriate support. But the OMG Summit changes all of that, delivering what could have been ho-hum information with straightforwardness and humor. For instance, OMG 2013 closed out with a comedic routine by Dr. Zubin “ZDoggMD” Damania, who in his own words mashes “medicine, music, and madness to educate and entertain.” We also watched the First Descents documentary Out Living It, played Re-Mission 2 at HopeLab‘s exhibitor booth, and watched as Stupid Cancer presented filmmaker Andrew Jenks of MTV’s “World of Jenks” with its Social Impact Award. And there was plenty of time to dance.
5) You’ll hear the latest on the AYA advocacy and research front – Top doctors, oncologists, healthcare pros, and non-profits are on hand to talk about rapidly changing AYA advocacy and research. (I have to say, I felt pretty darn smart coming out of sessions after learning about genomics and neurospychology.) Most sessions end with a Q&A period, allowing them to answer your burning questions on topics that run the gamut: treatments, late effects, sexuality, complementary medicine, carcinogens in the environment, and more. Plenary sessions focused on genetic breakthroughs and personalized medicine, as well as progress in AYA research and AYA clinics.
6) You’ll meet people working hard to make sure the AYA voice is heard – You’ll never meet a group of more dedicated folks than the employees and volunteers of Stupid Cancer and all of the non-profit and advocacy groups that attend and exhibit at the conference. With young adults accounting for 72,000 new cancer diagnoses each year, it’s critical that the medical community understands our needs from treatment to survivorship and beyond.
7) You’ll be inspired – There are so many inspiring people contributing to the AYA cancer community, from starting non-profits to running marathons and embroidering hats to granting cancer patients and survivors dream days. If you have no clue how to get involved, you’ll find plenty of ideas at the OMG Summit.
8) You’ll laugh and cry – Where else can you be telling someone a cancer joke one minute and then crying over shared experiences the next? Once and a while you’ll even get thrown a curveball, like a surprise marriage proposal. Plenty of tissues are provided. (And alcohol for those who need it.)
9) You’ll learn to get busy living again – The OMG Summit is not for people who want to stay in bed all day and cry, “Woe is me.” It’s about not letting cancer rule your life and giving it the bird. Sometimes you need a little help, and everyone in attendance is there to give you ideas and support to make that step.
10) You’ll make friends for life – If there’s anything positive that comes out of cancer, it’s the amazing, supporting, fun friends you make—a rapport that lasts well beyond the walls of the OMG Summit.
If you missed OMG 2013 this year, you can still attend the OMG2013/East one-day conference in New York City on September 28. It’s a bit more intimate that the annual event, but has the same, great purpose and people. Hope to see you there!
Crowdtap recently sent me a bottle and samples of DOT by Marc Jacobs to try out and share with my friends.
If you’re not familiar with DOT (and its super cute flower-butterfly-ladybug inspired bottle), it’s a light, sophisticated fragrance perfect for the spring and summer. Its top notes include red berries, dragon fruit, and honeysuckle, while the floral notes include jasmine, coconut water, and orange blossom. The dry down note are vanilla, driftwood, and musk.
Even though three particular scents may strike you as strong—jasmine, musk, and driftwood—the fragrance is hardly overpowering. It’s very sweet and flowery, and has elicited many positive comments when I wore it (particularly people asking where the flowers are located). The fruity notes are also sophisticated, avoiding that sickly-sweet drugstore or teenage perfume smell.
The bottle is a piece of artwork in itself, and adds a touch of whimsy to your collection–so much fun to look at and display!
If you’re looking for a fruity, yet decidedly grown-up perfume, definitely check out DOT by Marc Jacobs.
You can join Crowdtap here to connect to companies and products like Marc Jacobs.
Crowdtap and Woolite sent me samples of Woolite Everyday to share with my friends, and I was excited to receive it—it was the second time I’ve received a Woolite sample and share (the first being Woolite Darks), and the product has become a must in my cleaning repertoire.
The biggest problem with my wardrobe: My clothes are prone to fading, particularly since I wear a lot of dark colors. Woolite has been the perfect product for my bright t-shirts, dark jeans, and delicate items like my giant scarf collection. I’ve washed one of my regular loads in Woolite Everyday and the clothes came out fresh smelling, clean, and bright—and it seems I have to use less product than I do my regular detergent (Arm & Hammer).
You can join Crowdtap here to connect to companies and products like Woolite.
Easter is a holiday usually spent with family, but this year was a bit different. Mom decided to spend Easter in Florida with my brother, who moved down there last year. Alex and I were left to our own devices, so we thought we’d do something we’ve never done before: the NYC Easter Parade.
It was a goal on my 101 in 1,001 list to participate in a parade, and I was originally supposed to march with Fordham University in NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year. But it snowed and rained that day, so in order to fulfill that goal, it was the Easter Parade or nothing. So bonnets it was. (At least it wouldn’t be as complicated as the time we built reefed subway cars for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in 2008.)
Of course, we don’t like to be normal, so it couldn’t be straw hats and fake flowers. We thought it should be something NYC themed, like the subway cars. Since we already did those, Alex thought that perhaps we should do buses. At some point, we came up with the idea of doing Staten Island Ferries… but instead of a normal boat, it would have bunny ears and and a tail. As an appreciator of all puns good and bad, the “Staten Island Furries” were born.
As we planned for our bonnets, we were discussing the other way to Staten Island—the Verrazano Bridge. Mom joked that was one way to “passover” to the borough. So, of course, we had to make the bridge hat. But we needed a third person. And who better than our friend Deena from Fireball Network!
The hats turned out to be a lot more complicated that we originally thought they’d be—I’d say they took about 15 hours in total, not counting trips to Michael’s and waiting for paint to dry. Using a combination of old Priority Mail boxes, a panko bread crumb container, plastic bowls from Panera Bread, fuzzy fabric, pipe cleaners, felt, glitter, brads, and a LOT of Mod Podge, we finally finished the hats:
Here I am with both hats (Alex and I wore similar Furry hats) and the sign Deena held with another pun: EZ Passover Accepted in All Lanes. (As she joked, if her people had as good directions back when, they wouldn’t have wandered the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.) It certainly took some posturing and alterations to keep the bonnets on our heads—not to mention it later got windy, and even mini Staten Island Ferries and the Verrazano Bridge sway a lot in the breeze.
“On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us, and you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure!”
We certainly weren’t expecting the reaction we got, especially since we were among so many creative bonnets! We couldn’t walk more than two feet without someone stopping us and then multiple people taking our picture. Not just folks on smartphones, but even press photographers. It will be fun to see what comes out in the news and Flickr over the next few days. So far, Deena and I have made Easter Parade coverage in the NY Daily News and all three of us appear on Whom You Know, Examiner.com , and Xinuhanet coverage. We must’ve gotten at least 300 photos taken of us, if not more. Real Staten Islanders were particularly amused (and somewhat disappointed that the three of us didn’t actually hail from their borough).
One memorable moment was someone smacking me hard on the butt. I turned around and it was a little boy, no more than two or three. “Picture!” he demanded. His mother was mortified, but I obliged.
Here’s another shot of us that was taken by David Handschuh from the NY Daily News:
I particularly enjoyed this tweet from a disgruntled parade-goer. Twitter name redacted to protect the moody teenager who was dragged to this awful parade by Mommy:
just saw a woman wearing a homemade easter bonnet shaped like the “Staten Island Furry” rabbit thing god what a freak TAKE ME HOME
Glad to be of service!
We wrapped up the day with some Potbelly Sandwich Shop then dessert at my brother-in-law’s family gathering (does that make them my in-law in-laws?)
Neither Alex nor I can walk anymore, and my legs feel like iron weights are attached to them. Even though two miles wasn’t a lot to walk (Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal to the parade route of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th streets), the constant stopping and posing took its toll.
More photos (and a post from Deena on what we learned at the parade) soon!
It’s the second day of spring. Each year on the first, my grandmother would sing “Spring is here, the earth rejoices…”
Today, it seems Mother Nature is instead sticking out her tongue. It’s been snowing all day!
A look at my defeated crocuses:
It’s supposed to go up to the low 50s this weekend. Let’s see if this was her last hurrah. I’m ready for the daffodils and warm breezes!