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Julia Tugwell explains in her guest blog why she attended her first Let's Meet shortly after finishing treatment for cervical cancer.
It's a couple of weeks until I attend my third Jo's Let's Meet event. I'm beginning to get excited now!
I attended my first Let's Meet in 2014 still recovering from the cancer whirlwind that had swept through my life just eight months previously. If you've been there, you will know what it feels like to be told 'You have cancer'. You will know that for days, weeks and months your life is dominated by fear, worry, appointments, scans, results, treatments, prognosis. Your world gets thrown upside down, shaken about and when you finally come out the other end it's not over, even if other people think it is. But we know that we will never be the same again. Mentally or physically. This is where the Let's Meet event comes into its own.
Each event starts with a talk from an expert in the field of gynae-oncology. All those questions you forgot to ask at an appointment can be answered, you can gain a greater understanding of HPV, which was the focus for Let's Meet 2015, and you can also get another expert view alongside advice you may have got from your own team.
It's hard to pinpoint just what makes this event so fabulous. The workshops are great. There is always a wide selection to choose from and you can participate as much or as little as you wish. The people who run them are experts in their field. What an opportunity to have time and space to ask as many questions as you like to someone who really knows what they are talking about. They always feel like a safe environment, there is no pressure to contribute if you don’t want to. People outside of our situation may not understand why we need a frank conversation about sex, fertility, anxiety, depression, menopause, relationships. Or why our goodie bags contain lots of samples of lube. But cervical cancer rarely comes alone, its treatment brings these unwelcome friends to the party. We may be cured but we are not the same. Everyone there understands that.
There are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to just meet and chat with other ladies and their partners, over coffee and lunch. This is a most valuable aspect of the day. Cancer can be lonely. Whilst friends and loved ones can be a great source of understanding and support, chatting to someone who has actually gone through the same as you cannot compare. There is great comfort in thinking 'me too' when hearing someone tell their story, or ask a question.
The day rounds off with three people telling their story of how they got involved with Jo's. I was honoured to be asked to speak last year. This is always a good round off to the day and a gentle reminder of how we can all help Jo's continue its work in providing support and raising awareness.
At last year's event I actually met my online cancer buddy for the first time at the event. We had met on Jo's forum and exchanged messages, calls, cards and metaphorically held each other's hands through some tough times. By the end of the day lots of new friends were made and promises made to 'see you next year'.
If you haven't attended a 'Let's Meet' event yet, I hope I've whet your appetite. I can promise you will learn lots and meet lots of lovely people.
Hope to see some of you on September 10th.