HAMILTON — If breast cancer awareness has a season, it is surely autumn.
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and here in Hamilton the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation is sponsoring the Life After Breast Cancer Conference for people affected by any stage of breast cancer and their support network.
Registration is now open for this full-day conference, taking place Friday, Oct. 25 at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen’s. There’s a discount on admission for anyone registering before Sept. 30.
This highly-informative conference has taken place every two years since 2001 and typically attracts over 300 participants, many of whom are breast cancer survivors. It also draws people who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer but are still deeply impacted, such as survivors’ family and friends and people at higher risk of developing this disease for hereditary reasons.
This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Alexandra Ginty, the regional lead for cancer screening in Mississauga/Halton, a family doctor and hereditary high-risk breast cancer survivor. Dr. Ginty also has a masters degree in leadership and is an assistant professor at McMaster University. She has been dubbed `Dr. Both Sides’ because she has experienced cancer as both a physician and patient.
Dr. Ginty underwent a double mastectomy and lost her hair from cancer treatment. After discovering she carried a genetic BRCA mutation – associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer – she elected to pre-emptively have her uterus and ovaries removed. Her passion for awareness and change is strong, and she is heavily involved in survivorship and on provincial advisory boards. Her book, Both Sides: When the Doctor Becomes the Cancer Patient, chronicles her story and offers poems and healing tools to help people manage adversity.
The Life After Breast Cancer Conference features workshops, expert guest speakers, information tables, community resources and lunch. Topics cover a wide range of issues including cancer genetics, the role exercise can play in recovery, the impact of a cancer diagnosis on adolescents and young adults, managing lymphedema, cannabis and cancer, strategies to promote mental health, sexuality, breast reconstruction, nipple tattooing, and ways to manage fear of recurrence and survivor guilt.
Breast cancer survivor Kathie Ward has attended every Life After Breast Cancer conference, and has been on the event’s organizing committee for the past nine conferences. The Hamilton Mountain resident was diagnosed over 20 years ago and treated with surgery and chemotherapy.
“I’m 20 years on the other side of breast cancer, but I still find the conference’s speakers and workshops extremely helpful and informative,” says Ward, a retired registered nurse at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.
“This conference is ideal for people any stage of breast cancer, at any stage of their life.”
Registration cost is $40 before Sept. 30 and $45 after. To register, visit www.hamiltonhealth.ca/LABC call 905-575-6398.
By Dr. Callista Phillips and Leslie Maskell, co-chairs of the Life After Breast Cancer Conference. Dr. Phillips is a medical oncologist at the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington and the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton where she treats breast cancer and has a special interest in survivorship. Maskell is a registered nurse and gastrointestinal disease site team coordinator at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.