I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the Symposium last year. I knew I needed to go, but that’s not the same thing.
I needed to go because information is power when fighting an elusive enemy like mesothelioma.
I needed to go because fighting cancer is lonely, and I wanted to meet people who understood.
I needed to go because my husband, Cam, is everything to me—and I’ll do whatever it takes to help him beat this disease.
But all the same, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. In hindsight, I can recognize my hesitation for what it was: fear.
I was afraid it would be sad. I was particularly worried about a session that recognized those who had passed away during the year. I couldn’t face that — I was terrified of losing Cam. So guess what I did? I gave myself permission not to attend that session. And that was a fine approach because it was what I needed to do at the time.
I was afraid that the Symposium would be too much for me emotionally — three full days of staring into the face of meso. That fear seems laughable now. After all, hadn’t I been consumed for months doing exactly that? Through research, doctor visits, tests, and surgery, I’d been relentlessly staring down the beast.
Rather than being overwhelming, the Symposium was a tremendous relief. Admittedly, there was a lot of information and new faces and ideas to take in, but I ultimately found myself surrounded by people equally passionate about finding answers to this disease.
It was a relief to hear researchers present their findings. Even if I didn’t follow all the science, I understood enough, and I was grateful that the researchers could see my pleading eyes in the audience. I’m glad that I sat next to my husband, squeezing his hand, and helped to put a face to the need for more research.
It was a relief to attend the session for caregivers and hear from a panel that helped me feel connected. It was a relief to ask my toughest questions to that group and gain their wisdom and support.
It was a relief to approach a brilliant researcher after her presentation and ask a follow-up question specific to Cam’s recovery. I was able to pick the brains of every other doctor I could catch.
It was a relief to hear from dedicated and passionate fundraisers and learn how I can help contribute to the effort to find a cure.
As the Symposium was winding down, it was a wonderful relief to attend the closing celebration. At this annual dinner, I listened to Cam optimistically talk about his journey and perspective, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.
In the year since the Symposium, when I feel fear creeping in, one of the things that keeps me grounded is remembering the network of support I built by attending. Even though Cam and I were part of the Meso Foundation’s online community prior to the Symposium, nothing can compare to actually meeting others who “get it.”
At this year’s Symposium, I can’t wait for a fresh infusion of information, friends, and hope. Fear doesn’t stand a chance.