Young Survivorâs Conference Provides Fresh Perspective for Beyond Boobs! Volunteer
by Ann Pietrangelo
I recently had the pleasure of accompanying staff, volunteers, and members of Beyond Boobs! to the Young Survivorâs Conference in Orlando, and what an eye-opener it was! Iâve been a BB! volunteer for just over a year, and while I could talk and write about BB! convincingly, I can now feel its very heartbeat. That’s because this was my first opportunity to spend time with the young women who attend the support groups and benefit from the fun outings. Seeing is believing.
During the three-day conference, the 40+ members of the BB! brigade visited the 50 or so exhibitor booths representing breast cancer organizations, health advocates, and more that were showcasing the latest products and up-to-date information about breast cancer. Fun stuff, from henna tattoos to makeovers, and belly dancing to modern dancing made the event as much a social event as it was a conference about a very serious topic. The BB! booth was a hubbub of activity, lovingly staffed by Vicki, Celia, and a rotating band of boobers who charmed passersby into stopping for a chat.
Informative seminar topics included: breast reconstruction, integrative medicine, metastatic breast cancer, and genetics. Discussion groups tackled triple-negative breast cancer, mortality, weight, family planning, and lymphedema.
The emotional aspects of breast cancer were also addressed, including sex and intimacy, talking to children about cancer, caregiving, survivorâs guilt, relationships, living with metastatic breast cancer, dating, and advocacy. BB! will be sharing much of this information in the months to come.
And then there was BB!âs very own, âSurviving Survivorship: Living Life with an Exclamation Point!â Presenting to a packed room, Rene and Mary Beth skillfully led their audience on a potentially hazardous road trip that, as it turns out, goes a bit more smoothly when youâre packing the right tools. The ladies had âem on their feet more than once during their interactive talk. Among the highlights was Reneâs striptease, during which she morphed from her serious black lawyerly suit into the glittery pink Good Health Fairy, complete with wand, tiara, and high-top sneakers. Energized fans exited in a wave of bubbles blown by strategically placed boobers. It would not be overstating to say they totally rocked the house! Did someone say, âEncore! Encore!?â
Throughout the conference, I observed the genuine love these women have for each other, along with a deeper appreciation for BB! and all it represents. The emotional connection â bonding, learning, growing, letting loose â was the living proof of the BB! tagline, “living life with an exclamation point (!).”
I shared the 13-hour road trip back home with Rene and Mary Beth and now I know something else, too. They never stop. Itâs all systems go, all the time. Even as we made our way north, they continued to focus on their work, although âworkâ is probably the wrong word. Itâs truly a labor of love.
Iâm a survivor, a boober, but my breast cancer occurred at age 51, and my experiences were somewhat different than that of a woman in her 20s, 30s, or even her 40s. Now, when I do my bit as a volunteer, it will be with a fresh perspective. It did my heart good to watch the women of BB! take care of each other. Each of them has the strength of a family/team behind them. No matter what happens, the group has their back. They need never feel alone.
Young women need what BB! provides â not only the support system, but the fun that can so easily be dismissed while dealing with cancer. Iâm grateful to BB! for allowing me to play a small part in its mission.
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