Conference for people with cancer promises community

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    Dakota Fisher-Vance speaks with NewsWorks Tonight's Dave Heller at the WHYY studios. (Robert J. Chimienti/for WHYY)

    Dakota Fisher-Vance speaks with NewsWorks Tonight's Dave Heller at the WHYY studios. (Robert J. Chimienti/for WHYY)

    Making the most of a life interrupted by illness is the focus of the Cancervention Conference in Philadelphia. NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller got a preview of the event with Dakota Fisher-Vance, co-founder of the Young Adult Cancer Connection, and Ann Knettler-Smith, director of the Office of Disability Resources at Drexel University.

    The genesis for the community-building event came about when Fisher-Vance attended a similar get together in Boston a year ago. The experience was transformative and left her wondering why Philadelphia couldn’t have one of its own. “Being in a room with a bunch of other people who you can just go up to and say, ‘Hey, I have this cancer, what kind of cancer did you have?’ is just totally liberating,” she explains.

    In addition to networking, the conference offers a number of speakers and workshops. Knettler-Smith’s presentation is about navigating the three C’s: Cancer, Campus, and Career. Her work at Drexel puts her in touch with people on campus with disabilities, connecting them with any accommodations they may need. Another aspect of the job is helping students with disabilities to transition both into and out of college. Knettler-Smith said those transitions can be even more difficult “for someone who may be dealing with a very new diagnosis”.

    For Fisher-Vance, the conferences promise of community building is key. “When people talk about cancer, they often talk about empowering, and strength, and inspiring. Sometimes it’s hard to identify with those things, but I do feel that connecting with other people who ‘get it’ is truly empowering.”

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