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Reflections on TCAT Conference

Monday was a very busy day, and, for me anyway, one that was both fun and educational.

The conference organisers had arranged for a professional cartoonist to be present and to capture some of the phrases/ideas expressed along the way.  Not caricatures of the speakers, just generic male/female characters with words from participants.  The one above was based on some of my opening remarks at the start of the conference.

The conference was a clever blend of academic research presented by Professor Robert Fergusson from Pittsburgh, with inspiring patient stories and reports on the project itself.  The delegates included oncologists, psychologists, clinical nurse specialists, third sector representatives, patients and their families/friends, all of whom were equal participants.

It was a great day, in which I gained a deeper understanding of the condition known as 'chemobrain' and was affirmed as being someone who, like most patients, is 'high functioning' so that other people are largely unaware of the issue.  I learned that, by default, I've done everything 'right' to mitigate and manage the condition - healthy diet, regular exercise, working at using my brain - and that whilst these are beneficial they are neither preventive or curative (Prof Fergusson mentioned having marathon runners among his patients). 

The key messages that came across were that this is effect is widespread and even 'normal' among people treated for cancer.  Naming it for what it is demystifies it and takes away fear or embarassment.  Small group programmes which combine input on the condition, strategies for coping and peer support are hugely beneficial in promoting well-being.

It was nice to have my experience officially validated, it was encouraging to hear about the research, and it was a privilege to listen to people's stories.  I'd never in a million years imagined that I'd be present at a medical conference, let alone chairing it - just another unexpected positive consequence of this whole journey.

As part of the conference this video was shared, with stories from two amazing people:

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