10 Reasons why I'll attend the OMG Summit next year


I recently 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 I attended the Summit and so should you: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.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 neuropsychology.) 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.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!Amanda Marsh was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's primary diffuse large b-cell lymphoma in 2005 at the age of 22. She was treated at Stony Brook University Medical Center and is nearing eight years of remission. She's currently deputy editor for Bisnow Media and lives in Islip, Long Island.

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