Full House at Myeloma Patient Town Meeting in Denver
The hunger for knowledge when faced with a “rare” or “orphaned” cancer is a powerful force. I was privileged to witness that hunger as I recently led a Patient Empowerment Network town hall meeting this past weekend in Denver, Colorado. 140 folks packed the conference room for an in-person full house. More joined through online streaming of an event designed to deliver knowledge, empowerment, community and hope to those who are dealing with multiple myeloma.
It is always my hope that folks who participate in these events wind up heading home with more than they showed up with. Whether it is insight to what is happening in research, learning about new ideas for living well, discovering new ways to communicate or even embracing the fact that no one is ever truly alone in the cancer journey, I feel like it is my job to make sure that happens. I think that Denver delivered, in spades, for all attendees. But it also delivered for me. I walked away with “new stuff” and I’d like to share some of that with you.
Leading events like these town hall meetings is important to me because I am currently living well in remission and I feel that it is pretty much my mission to make certain that people know that they can absolutely live well with cancer. I also know that cancer is a very serious and sobering issue. So serious that it is easy to get swallowed up and overwhelmed. That is why I make a very concentrated effort to inject a little levity into the events that I help lead. I stuck to this belief in Denver and managed to crack a few jokes and deal out a little sarcasm and I was rewarded with some giggles and a few belly laughs. Okay. So far, so good.
Fast forward to one of our breaks and one of the attendees stepped over to chat with me. “I have to tell you… I don’t think I really expected to be in a room full of cancer patients who were laughing.” And that’s when something became crystal clear for me. Laughter. Many times, a diagnosis of cancer strips us of the ability to laugh. Everything is so serious, so depressing. It’s not until we learn how to laugh again that we start living well. And you can bet your bottom dollar I made sure to thank that lovely lady for helping me understand that truth.
I was astounded by the energy and wisdom of our patient panelists. It takes a bit of courage to step up in front of an audience and share tales of the road being traveled. It can be intimidating to relay the ups and downs, and recount all those bumps in the road. But I am learning that all of our patient panelists seem to connect with the audience very quickly. And as the meeting winds through its own path, the sense of community that we work so hard to develop actually happens. The town hall morphs into a family and that’s when things get really good. That happened in Denver.
My new “cousin,” one of our patient panelists, taught me about a nefarious disease, the EBC virus, that can hold all of us back from achieving our goals and being winners. What is this EBC thing? Well, it’s really quite simple. If you are:
- Blamin’ or
…then there’s no way you are winning and the EBC virus is certainly holding you back. As Rodney says: “Eliminate the EBC virus from the picture and you become a winner!” Of course, Rodney also sang to us at the town hall meeting and had everyone in the room smiling with him. A man of many talents!
So I boarded a plane and headed home after the event. I was tired, yet energized. When I got home, everyone was asleep except the cats. I slipped into bed and, much to the dismay of those same cats, was pretty much asleep before my head hit the pillow. When I awoke I was content (and gave the cats some attention).
The Patient Empowerment network builds communities by creating families hungry to learn how to take charge of their lives and then live those lives well. I can assure you that I get as much out of these events as do the panelists and the participants. Until next time, well, I’ll say it again… Live well!
(Editor’s Note: I would sincerely like to thank all our sponsors for this wonderful event!)