Well I did it I made it to the Macmillan Cancer Voices conference in London on Friday and am I glad I went? Yes I am really pleased I managed to go. It was a lively two day conference and absolutely well worth every minute.
I took the advice I had received from Wrekin Writers "write about something you know". I went to the groups I knew I could contribute to rather than sit there without offering anything.
The first workshop I attended was to do with financial matters. We discussed ways forward of how to get the DWP to listen to the needs of cancer patients and to accept letters from consultants rather than be forced to attend medical assessments and have the professionals overuled. As that is what appears to be happening. I suggested inviting MPs to Macmillan conferences even if they don't turn up at least they know what is happening. The two male Macmillan staff conducting this workshop were amazed at the input each and every person in that room gave to this workshop.
That evening we had a welcome group which was really well attended so much so they had to keep fetching more chairs. It was a very emotional weekend for many but without the emotions would be so passionate about what we want to achieve? The answer to that is "No".
Dinner was a lively event meeting new people and understanding their needs and concerns.
I dressed up a bit for this event and felt much better for making an effort with makeup and putting my hair up.
Yesterday morning was an early start for most. Registration was to be 9 am prompt with breakfast to be over and done with as well as all rooms vacated which meant everyone had to be packed by this time. We all succeeded in these tasks.
The second workshop I attended was how to tell your story.
The trainer said how would you get your story out in 60 seconds. This meant we had to be punchy and we had to get the audience's attention. One lady (it wasn't me honest!) suggested getting her prothesis out of her bra and throwing it to the audience. We all laughed but it would work.
There was a teenager in our group during this workshop and I was so proud to have met her. She was so very brave with her story. She wasn't a cancer patient but her mother had been. Instead of being honest with her family the mother had decided to cope with the whole cancer journey on her own. (How many times have I felt I could cope better without involving Steve or anyone else? Too many to mention). The teenager had felt lied to and betrayed, untrustworthy and had completely fallen apart.
Her story hit me hard. After the workshop I went up to her and told her I was so proud to have met her and that she should be proud of herself.
Then it was lunchtime. Again I met different people and got talking to them. We exchanged frank and valid views from all aspects of treatment and family matters and I was amazed at how I had been able to contribute towards the workshops so far.
The third and final workshop I attended was how to become a cancer voice and what could be achieved. There were several experienced cancer voices in this workshop, myself included. I didn't tell them everything I had done for Macmillan I told them bits of what I had been able to achieve and the appearances I had made on behalf of Macmillan. Others said what they had achieved too.
There were so many people who were unsure of whether to become cancer voices or not I decided to take a shot at a way in Macmillan offer courses which are free to attend and receive training one of these is Network Site Specific Groups (NSSGs) relating to various cancer types e.g. skin, breast etc.
I explained I had attended this training recently even though I do attend a Breast NSSG in my local area. The reason I had attended was things change, I could always learn something new, I could support new members and offer them my experience.
I mentioned that a professional had attended this training as consultants, pathologists, radiologists and others involved in cancer have to attend the NSSGs. He said after this training he didn't realise he could contribute so much himself to a NSSG, he had felt in the past that he had to just attend and listen to what was happening around him.
This just shows that the training is doing what it should it is making people empowered to take control themselves and have a positive input to a meeting.
When I spoke about my experience of NSSG the whole room was quiet I had no idea the impact I would have or did have on others in that group. Comments were made on what I had said and I felt overwhelmed with such a positive response.
I then went off to the final closing of the conference and filled out our feedback forms.
Many people came to say goodbye some knelt in front of my wheelchair to speak to me. I had been determined not to use it but the distance to the bedrooms had meant I had no choice yesterday as my back hurt. This made me realise I wasn't been talked down to I was being classed as an equal. It just shows how body language means such a lot.
I have a lot of email addresses and websites to add to my collection. I am so glad I went now, despite my nerves the night before it was well worth it. I feel now I have a lot to contribute to helping others and to make sure that things change in the future for those that follow.
It is surprising the little hints and tips I pick up on my journey from various places can be used as a whole in one place. Examples "write about what you know". In my case "talk about what you know". Empowerment give people options; two are not going to work but the third one is, so when you give someone the three choices they feel they have made the decision and not you.
In the last two years I have learnt the above and I am still learning. That is what life is about you learn something new everyday and if you don't it is boring.