A roomful of people listened intently to a woman who dramatically waved her only hand through the air — the other was amputated during cancer treatment.
Everyone in the audience had one thing in common: Their lives had been affected by cancer.
About 250 cancer survivors, family and friends filled McNamara Alumni Center on Saturday for the seventh annual conference on cancer survivorship.
Available to all cancer survivors 16 and older, attendees learned how to thrive after cancer by attending mini-sessions and keynote presentations.
The day began with a welcome and presentation from keynote speaker Melissa Hudson, who promoted good health habits after treatment like exercising and eating healthy.
“The conference is beneficial because it increases awareness of health issues and increases knowledge of resources,” Hudson said.
Attendees who went to different mini-sessions listened to presentations about the impact of cancer treatments on sexual health and staying heart-healthy after cancer therapy.
The conference ended with a presentation from Ruth Bachman, whose main message was moving on from cancer. Bachman, a cancer survivor, lost her left hand to the disease but channeled her energy into speaking about empowering survivors.
“I hope people would chose to not say, ‘Why me?’ and to [instead] say, ‘Yes, this happened, now what?’” Bachman said.
The convention emphasized educating and empowering survivors so they are better able to advocate for themselves and lead full and productive lives, according to the brochure.
This is important because many people are not aware of what they need to do to stay healthy after treatment, said Cancer Detection, Treatment and Survivorship Program Manager Ashley Schempp.
Sixteen-year-old Tiarra Olson was born with stage 4S neuroblastoma, a cancer that primarily affects infants and children. She went into remission before her first birthday but still finds coming to the conferences beneficial.
“[The conference] gave a lot of good information, and I learned things I could ask my doctor about what could have been,” Olson said.
Planning for the convention began at the end of last year’s and integrates feedback from participants. Throughout the year, grants are written to ensure the convention is free for participants and includes breakfast and lunch.
The conference was supported by many University of Minnesota affiliates and cancer organizations like the American Cancer Society and the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.
In November, a final agenda begins to take form.
Schempp said they try to incorporate different topics each year because about half of participants take part annually and half are newcomers.
The convention is based on a different theme each year, though it usually includes nutrition and exercise topics.
“It’s a great way for us to get information out there so people can know and advocate for themselves,” Schempp said.