My C4YW experience

CURE invited Marie Ennis-O'Connor, a breast cancer survivor from Ireland, to describe her experience at the Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer, held Feb. 25-27 in Orlando.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at any age is an overwhelming and frightening experience, but being diagnosed with breast cancer when you are a younger woman brings its own unique challenges.

Facing a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment at a time when a young woman is typically focused on establishing her career, studying, dating, getting married or starting a family affects her in a variety of psychosocial and practical ways. She may feel isolated and alone as she comes to terms with fertility issues, early menopause, changing body image, maintaining a career while undergoing treatment, insurance issues and financial concerns.

Now imagine a place where she can feel less alone, a place where she can share her story with other young women who understand, a place where she can empower herself with the latest information on treatment options and learn new ways to cope and move on with her life.

On the last weekend in February, at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, that place became a reality for hundreds of young women living with breast cancer. We traveled from all across the U.S. (and some, like myself, from countries further afield) to gather for the 11th Annual Conference for Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer (C4YW). We came to hear stories of survival, to become better advocates for our communities, to arm ourselves with the latest scientific research and clinical care, to attend workshops on healthy living, well-being and spirituality and above all to network and reach out to women just like ourselves.

The meeting, which began as a collaboration between Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), welcomed Susan G. Komen for the Cure as a partner in 2008. Thanks to a generous scholarship program which provides grants to participants to attend the conference, I was able to be a part of this unique weekend of learning and networking.

C4YW is the only international conference for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45. The mission of the conference is to motivate and lend support to women whose diagnosis has had an impact on their family, friends, partners and children in a way that isn't necessarily related to that of her counterpart who was diagnosed at an older age. The conference takes place over three stimulating days of workshops, plenary presentations and fun events. These social events help women gain a sense of unity as they realize that there is a network within their individual breast cancer journey.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
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