A trip to Las Vegas does not typically include discussions on career rights, fertility options and sexual dilemmas. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will see a comedic speaker, who is also a published author with a PhD, talk of his personal struggles and major accomplishments. One might not expect to meet the CEO of an organization who has spent so much of his time and energy helping others and changing lives, and now changing mine. I can also say that one might not plan to share a connection with over 500 people one has never met before.
But I did.
Different people from all over the country, even from different countries, were joined together because of one commonality: Cancer.
At my first Stupid Cancer event, OMG2014, I was surrounded by fellow survivors. It didn’t matter what people looked like, if they had hair or not or if they were in a wheelchair. It didn’t matter what people needed to talk about, or what emotions they needed to express, no one was there to judge and everyone was there to support one another. I learned of outlets and resources that will help me and so many others in the future.
Because of cancer, and the chemotherapy treatments I underwent, I have long-term side affects I deal with every day. Now I know I have someone to turn to and help when talking to my employers and co-workers about my disability. I met someone who can coach me in life and guide me in developing a plan for my future. Cancer will not hold me back, and I will live a better life.
After a session just for women, I also learned I am not alone in my sexual experiences, struggles and realities, and even though I may have to face these obstacles, it is OK. I am unique and beautiful. This meeting opened my eyes to these things, and I am ever grateful.
While some serious issues were discussed, a four-day trip to Vegas did not go without some relaxation and letting loose. I was able to bond with my roommates, even though we had never met before. We instantly felt as if we had been lifelong friends who were reuniting. There were others I formed such strong bonds with during the various event during the weekend. I want to keep in touch with them all, and I can’t wait to see them again.
Everyone I met at the conference helped me to realize it is OK to struggle and it is OK to ask for help. We can overcome anything. Cancer is seen as such a negative thing, as if nothing good can come from it. I would disagree, because during the OMG! Summit, cancer brought us all together. I have come away with meaningful relationships, resources that will support me in the future, and memories that I will treasure forever.
Lindsay Braunwalder, 24, is a 14-year survivor of medulloblastoma and currently lives in Eagle, Idaho.