A meeting filled with hope and promise

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium kicked off Wednesday with some pre-meeting sessions, but mostly those attending were picking up their badges and looking through the meeting journal to mark the presentations they wanted to hear. I spent a little time at one of the educational sessions this afternoon that addressed translational research, which is a fancy name for how to put research into clinical action to make a difference in the lives of women with breast cancer. This was one of those sessions where it took a PhD in microbiology to follow the topic, but even if I couldn't get into the speaker's brain, I could enjoy the 700 or so physicians and researchers who gathered to hear him and take copious notes. I love coming to this meeting because it is so filled with hope and promise. I like to search the faces of the physicians and researchers for the passion I know will someday cure this damned disease. I'm sure they have no idea that in the back of the ballroom sits a survivor who is rooting for each one of them to win the Nobel Prize for finding a cure for cancer. The first time I came to SABCS in 1993 to promote my book, I, and the friends who came with me, stood out like a sore thumb. In part it was our youth, and the fact that we were women, but it was also clear from the cool air around us that "patients advocates" were not really wanted here. Today, the crowd of physicians, researchers, and advocates is so diverse it's hard to tell who plays what role. Women represent clearly half of the group and a good percentage look young enough to be my children. Sitting in the lobby it's easy to pick up numerous languages being spoken by researchers and physicians from around the world. I chatted with two youngish women in line in front of me at the coffee bar, thinking that with their jeans and casual look they might be advocates. Nope, they were two surgeons from Brazil. Tonight I went to the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation dinner for the 35 or so advocates they have brought in from around the world. For the next four days these men and women will be responsible for learning as much as possible to take home to their own breast cancer organizations. It was inspiring to hear what they have accomplished and to know that we survivors have also made our mark in helping the women diagnosed today and tomorrow. I look forward to tomorrow and learning about advances in treatment and detection.