Justin Birckbichler is a fourth grade teacher, testicular cancer survivor and the founder of aBallsySenseofTumor.com. From being diagnosed in November 2016 at the age of 25, to finishing chemo in January 2017, to being cleared in remission in March, he has been passionate about sharing his story to spread awareness and promote open conversation about men's health. Connect with him on Instagram @aballsysenseoftumor, on Twitter @absotTC, on Facebook or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part two in a three-part series about my trip to Chicago for HealtheVoices 2018.
In April 2018, I had the opportunity to attend HealtheVoices 2018, a conference for online health advocates. To catch up to my journey, check out the post about my first day on before coming back here to learn about day two of the three day event.
Day two of HealtheVoices18 began with a session focused on Twitter. While I didn't really learn anything inherently new about growing an audience on Twitter, I was affirmed that many of the things that I already do are considered best practice. Some mental health advocates asked if Twitter would be doing about cyberbullying and discussed ways to stop it, but they didn't have many concrete steps in place. I also inquired about the verification process and discounted/free Tweet promotions, which would help spread more influence for health advocates, but unfortunately, they had no real answers. Even though their answers were disappointing, to be honest, I hope our voices were heard and I will be following up over the next few months.
However, the next two sessions about video production, led by Sarah Snow of Wisdo, and YouTube sessions, by Sarah Healy and Sonalika Reddi of YouTube, were amazing and got my wheels spinning. While my testicular cancer awareness work started as a blog, it's since grown into the realms of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, but I haven't really tackled YouTube.
After learning various tips on how to create videos and grow an audience, I've decided that I will be launching the A Ballsy Sense of Tumor YouTube channel, which you can check out and subscribe to here. In the interest of full disclosure, I was so excited about this new venture that I worked on some changes during the next two sessions. The sessions had some valuable information, but I was just so inspired that I had to multitask.
To be honest, I am a bit nervous and anxious about this endeavor. While I am hilarious and charismatic in person (not to mention incredibly modest and humble), that doesn't always show through in video. I also know I do better when I just let it free flow instead of scripting out what to say. Perhaps a storyboard and major bullet points format will work best for me when planning out my content. It will definitely be a learning curve, but I am excited to start planning my first videos, for shooting, editing, and publishing over the summer/early fall.
Our final group session was led by Mike Veny, HealthCentral's Mental Health Social Ambassador. Since mental health has been a recent focus of mine, I was very interested in how he shared his definition of mental health: how you respond to life through thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Only behavior can be observed by an outside observer, while the first two are internal. To help us learn a technique that has helped him, he led us in some rhythmic drumming exercises, which were definitely fun. In true Uniballer fashion, I chose a single maraca.
Afterwards, representatives from Wisdo, a video app for sharing and learning from the collective wisdom and challenges of others, interviewed me for eventual sharing on their platform. It was nice to share my story, and the video producer said I had her in a combination of tears and silent laughter in the back of the room. The videographer was another fellow Uniballer, but he was born that way, so I'm not sure which one of us won… but we each had one!
Later that evening, we had an open mic night. I had prepared a poem about my journey in mission, in the style of Dr. Seuss. I think I did a pretty good job. I only dropped the ball on one line, but totally mocked myself on it. Self-deprecating humor is only second to my ball puns.
As the day wound down, I reflected on what day two meant to me. As I said, one thing I'm going to be committing to is a new outlet for awareness and advocacy via video. My mind is already whirling on how this is going to go, but I also recognize I want to slow down and plan it out well first.
The other focal point of day two was connection. I spent a lot of time talking and bonding with the cancer advocates who I had met at the pre-conference. Since there were only ten total cancer advocates in the group of 120 advocates, I also spent a decent amount of time connecting with others from other advocacy areas.
I spoke with Al Levin, a mental health advocate about how he could adapt my study for one he wants to run, talked with Sabrina Skiles, psoriasis advocate on how we both experience so many misconceptions about our conditions, and learned what schizophrenia is really like (spoiler: nothing like movies and media makes it seem) from a schizophrenia advocate named Rachel Star. Even though we all had different passions and conditions, we all experience many of the same things and could bond over this common link.
This is part two of a three part series about my experiences at HealtheVoices 2018. Be sure to check my CURE author page to see the other two parts.
Disclosure: My travel expenses were paid for by Janssen Global Services, LLC. All thoughts and opinions expressed on social media or this blog are fully my own, honest thoughts, and not reflective of those held by Janssen.