Survivorship Conference Unites Participants

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By Michelle Moore, MD Anderson Staff Writer

cancerwise_michelle.jpgThis year's Anderson Network Cancer Survivorship Conference was a celebration, one like I'd never experienced.

The conference was not just a place of hope, it was overflowing with love.

Love for new life, new opportunities and new friends.

We are all survivors
The truth is, I didn't expect this conference to affect me as much as it did. After all, I'm an MD Anderson employee, not a cancer survivor.

But at the conference I learned that we're all survivors.

Some have survived cancer, some abuse and some a broken heart. Some of our scars are physical and easy to see. Some are emotional, and we are the only ones who know they exist.

Some say we're only responsible for ourselves, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

We are responsible for each other, and that was more than evident at the conference.

Dave Dravecky was one of the keynote speakers. He blew me away.

For those who don't know his amazing story, here's a summary.

A young boy dreams of playing professional baseball. He accomplishes that dream, becoming a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Then he develops cancer in his pitching arm and has to have his arm amputated, ending his career and, it would seem, his dream.

Dravecky spoke about survivorship, his faith and his family -- all with a unique wit that kept the audience laughing, then nearly crying, then laughing again.

One thing he said really stuck with me: being a cancer patient didn't define him. Neither did being a professional baseball player.

Instead, he said, we are defined by the things and people we love: our families, our faith, our friends and our purpose.

A whole new outlook

For Dravecky, his life's work -- his purpose -- didn't begin when he set foot on the pitcher's mound, but when he woke up with his left arm amputated and a drastically different take on life.

I also met a young woman at the conference who'd had a double mastectomy at the age of 30.

I thought, that's only about five years older than I am. When she imagined 30, she probably imagined marriage, children, a career. But not cancer.

When we plan our futures, we rarely plan for sicknesses, tragedies, heartaches or pains, but they may come anyway.

The not-so-good days can make you weak or make you brave -- often a bit of both.

But that's OK, because we're all much more than the things we've survived.

We are each other's support system. We are responsible for each another.

We are blessed with so many unique, beautiful and, yes, painful experiences in life, and that is what connects us, whether we have cancer or not.

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