Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, M.A., E-RYT500, yoga therapist is a 12-year colorectal cancer survivor (2003). She used yoga to help herself regain a 'new normal' and then became a yoga teacher to help other survivors. Her work is free to cancer patients at YogaBeing.net. Jean attends cancer conferences and speaks on the benefits of yoga for cancer survivors. Survivor, advocate, activist, teacher and friend.
Every cancer conference is a chance for me to learn.
They said to wear blue. Of course for colorectal cancer survivors, the ribbon color is blue. And since it was an evening event at the “Live Your Best Life” conference put on by the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA), I took them literally at their word. I wore nothing but blue.
For those of you that have never attended a conference related to your cancer, let me tell you a bit about what happens. You are greeted with hugs, even if you’ve never met the check-in person. They gift you with a bag of goodies — This time, it included a laser-printed wooden medallion. I like it! Reminds me of wooden nickels being thrown at Fourthof July parades when I was young.
You also get a name tag with ribbons to show others that you're a survivor, caregiver, volunteer or board member. Just by looking at my name tag, other people could know about my journeys alongside cancer patients as well as being a survivor of late stage colorectal cancer. Conferences are packed with speakers, vendors and, most of all, survivors.
I’ve known Jeannie Hansen Moore, the nurse navigator and energy behind Blue Hope Nation’s Facebook group for almost a decade, but I never met her. When I arrived at the conference, there was a snack break and I sought out Jeannie from her profile picture. What a joy it was to hug someone who has helped so many people, including me! There’s nothing like face-to-face contact and hugs. Fighting cancer and supporting others who still battle means we all need our groups of "peeps."
The “Live Your Best Life” conference did a great job of having a variety of speakers addressing topics like nutrition during cancer and lifestyle changes to ameliorate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. There were sessions on healthy sexuality, caregiving, end-of-life issues, and how to look for and apply to clinical trials. The conference ran like a well-oiled machine. The work that goes in to coordinating speakers' schedules looks deceptively seamless until you see a speaker jet to the door after their presentation.
Every conference is a chance for me to learn. I meet incredibly dedicated volunteers, see my cohort of survivors, and promote my main mission of integrating yoga techniques into our lives; including through the use of yoga breaks during the conference. Lately, my only comment on conference feedback sheets is that breaks for stretching and breathing are needed every half hour. I strongly believe that we can make a huge difference in the way survivors live by inserting little “yoga breaks” along the way. After attending a workshop by Leslie Kasimoff, a yoga therapist and expert on teaching calming breathing techniques, my ‘takeaway’ was that "a small change in something we do all the time, means we can make a huge impact on people’s health." Breathing is one example of this idea of small change equals huge impact. During a conference, we can take 90 seconds to teach a breathing technique, we potentially change the quality of life for those attendees who learn and practice. That is not an insignificant impact!
After sitting through a day of back-to-back sessions, we were provided a healthy afternoon snack and a short break before the “Wear Blue” invitation on the rooftop of our hotel. I went to my hotel room and took a warm shower and stretched. Then I debated about putting on my "Blue Man" costume. On the one hand, it was Halloween Eve and it could be a lot of fun to show up in a costume. On the other hand, spandex is a revealing and unforgiving material, no matter how tight my spanks were! What did I decide?
Today’s Practice: It doesn't take long to engage the Relaxation Response. We’ve all experienced immediately becoming relaxed, though the situations will vary. Whenever I smell fresh baked bread, I am transported back in time to my mother’s kitchen and the simple joy of sharing bread. Some people like the sound of water fountains and others love the ocean lapping at the shore.