By Nicole Bruton, Executive Survivor Committee, ICCCPO Liaison, North American Representative
We are pleased to announce that the annual ICCCPO Survivor Meeting held in Oslo, Norway was a great success. This year we had over 30 delegates from across the world, including Austria, Britain, Canada, Germany, Greece, Finland, Japan and New Zealand. The Survivor Executive Committee, made up of six survivor representatives throughout the world, had the opportunity to meet prior to the commencement of the conference at which time they outlined objectives and designed a strategic plan towards achieving the goals and objectives of the ICCCPO Survivor group. Throughout the three-day conference delegates attended sessions pertaining to:
- How to Set Up a Survivor Group in Your Own Country,
- Supporting Newly Diagnosed Children with Cancer and their Families
- and Fostering Hope in the Face of Adversity.
Prudence Walker, of New Zealand, led an information session on the process involved in establishing and maintaining a survivor’s group in one’s own country. As a follow-up, delegates participated in a sharing session where individual survivors exchanged personal experiences, resources and knowledge gained from creating a Survivor’s Group in their own country. This was an invaluable experience for those individuals who are currently attempting to set up their own group.
The desire to give back to our communities, especially the hospitals that played such a large role in our treatment, appears to be a consistent goal for many of the survivor groups that were represented at this year’s meeting. A session relating to developing and implementing skills required in supporting newly diagnosed children with cancer and their families encouraged delegates to practice their acting skills through role-playing the many ways we can mentor families in various situations. A huge thank you goes out to Michigan University Professor Mark Chesler, parent of a long-term survivor and ICCCPO Board member, who provided the resources and knowledge, which made this session a success and allowed us to laugh as well as learn from our unique cancer experiences.
The conference was not all work and no play! Thanks to the phenomenal leadership and organization of Steinar Krey Voll, of the Norwegian Survivor Group, we were spoiled with a trip to three local museums followed by a boat trip to Langoyenne islands in the Oslo fjord. It was on the islands that we played paint ball and explored the beautiful landscape of the islands. To top it all off we were treated to in a magnificent Norwegian shrimp buffet prior to heading back to our hotels.
Next year’s ICCCPO Survivor meeting will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We are very excited about the up coming meeting. Program planning and ideas are already in the works for next year’s conference. We are looking forward providing an incredible program and quality experience such as the one we had in Norway. With empowerment and energy gained from this year’s meeting, the Survivor Executive Committee is confident about the fun and excitement that awaits us all in Vancouver 2005.
See you In Vancouver!!!
A quote from the letter of a mother who traveled with her son (a survivor) to Oslo may illustrate the impact such a meeting can have:
“…let me tell you a bit about my son. You saw yourself how depressed the boy was. For eight years I tried to stimulate him in a positive way and hoped to make him more interested in learning and striving for a good future for himself. But he always replied: ‘Leave me alone, there is no future for me.’
With a lot of difficulties I convinced him to come with me to Oslo to meet with other young survivors. And already after the first day of the meeting he was changed. Now, back home, he is full of energy, he goes to school voluntarily and asked the teacher to teach him more English because he is dreaming of traveling to Vancouver. He helped me to prepare a meeting for other young survivors of our group which was very successful.
I am so grateful that this all happened.”
The ICCCPO Experience
I have gained so much from this experience. Everything from the people I met, to the different sessions I attended, to the guest speakers, is going to be something to remember forever and guide me through the rest of my life.
One of the main things I learned is that there are survivors all over the world, like my survivor group in Canada, trying to make a difference. The survivors that I met at the conference are all on a different walk of life. Some groups were well established, and had set up programs where they were visiting newly diagnosed patients in the hospital. In some countries, if you told people you were a survivor, you put your career in jeopardy.
For me this conference meant the celebration of survivorship, friendship, support and knowledge. I was inspired by new ideas, different ways of overcoming obstacles, and I felt a sense of renewed passion. The group I work with in Canada called “Mentors for Life”, have had their fair share of closed doors and disappointments. I now know how to approach and plan some of the projects that we were trying to launch, by talking with some of the members of the ICCCPO meeting, who have had success in certain areas. I know we can take our dreams farther.
It was easy to build a relationship with people through this connection, because you have a common bond that you share. We hear about one another’s stories, our pain, our courage, the fight, drive, and passion we have about what we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes very few words have to be said to feel understood. I met a lot of energized people, and was able to quickly develop relationships that will continue to grow. I look forward to a shared stimulated sense of inspiration that we can provide for each other.
I was happy and eager to share our team’s successes, for others to learn from. There were many people at the meeting that walked away with new ideas from our group. But, my main goal was to discuss areas where we did not have success. What a great opportunity to get some constructive advice! I heard, and learned from others. I asked as many questions as I could to bring back a clear understanding of what we need to do to accomplish our goals with great success. I was eager to learn about the steps it takes to develop a program to enter into hospitals, how to talk to newly diagnosed patients and to give hope to their families.
I now realize that we need to take a few more baby steps to build a foundation instead of jumping into something unprepared. I will be able to incorporate other programs, involving cancer survivor siblings, into our group.
As a whole, I have been inspired. As a person who wants to change the way people interact with childhood cancer, I can succeed with the strength of others and the community of a caring team.
Carie Wik, Mentors for Life, Canada