Last week, in St. Catharines, Ontario, an unprecedented event occurred. Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) hosted the largest Survivor Conference, ever! One hundred and twenty one people affected by young adult cancer gathered together at the Holiday Inn to laugh, learn, grow, cry, hug, heal, dance, and thrive because of the community and unique connections they found in one another. The theme was, “Cascade,” which was fitting due to the close proximity to Niagara Falls and the intense outpouring of love and support each participant gave and received.
The opening dinner was attended by survivors, supporters, and program facilitators, as well as YACC’s board members and staff. A quick glance around the room at the smiling faces and the tender conversations revealed the truth of YACC’s mantra, “Any cancer, any stage, YACC’s got your back.”
Participants enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at Niagara Falls. Some took part in a photo scavenger hunt while others braved the zip line! The weather could not have been better and many life-long memories were made as friends, old and new, enjoyed the stunning sites of the massive water falls.
Throughout the weekend, facilitators led workshops on a variety of topics such as body image, grief, sleep, exercise, and the power of owning your story. On Saturday night, young adult cancer survivor and comedian, Daniel Stolfi, performed his moving and hilarious one-man show, “Cancer can’t dance like this.”
After the show, a moment was taken to talk about the Shave for the Brave and to recognize how incredible Shavers are to the work of YACC. The room exploded with applause and each young adult cancer survivor was given a special Shave for the Brave toque with, “Brave,” stitched into the back.
It was an amazing moment, highlighting the powerful connection between the Shave and the Brave.
On Sunday, participants of the conference embarked on The Climb, an annual community hike that ended with a time of remembrance for friends and family who have died of cancer. Loss is the difficult and challenging part of being a member of the YACC community. The moment was etched with both tears and smiles, as those who have passed away were deeply mourned and fondly remembered.
Survivor Conference 2019 was memorable, emotional, and rejuvenating. It ended on Sunday evening with a beach themed dance, where everyone traded the trials of cancer — the appointments, the treatments, the sorrow, the fear — for the joy of singing, dancing and being together.
Look! Look what you’ve done! None of this would have been possible without the funds raised through Shave for the Brave. It is through the giving of Shavers, Head Hunters, and donors like YOU that YACC is able to do what it does for young adults living with, through, and beyond cancer.