June 2nd is National Cancer Survivor’s Day. Judy Pearson of South Haven is a breast cancer survivor and the co-founder of the Women Survivors Alliance. She and another cancer survivor, Karen Shayne, say want to support millions of other women survivors as they move through and beyond treatment. They began working on the issue four years ago.
The first National Women Survivors Convention will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, in August and a digital magazine called The Plum will also be launched. Pearson says they’re gathering essays from other women for a project called My Second Act.
The convention is limited to women only. Pearson says no slight is intended toward men who are living with cancer. But she says the sexes do experience the disease in different ways. Pearson says women are much more likely than men to gather in groups and talk openly about what they are going through. One out of 22 women in the U.S. is a cancer survivor. Pearson says that’s seven million people.
According to Pearson, a person with cancer becomes a survivor the moment they are diagnosed with the disease – not after they complete their treatment. She says some survivors can feel at a loss when their treatments end because they no longer have a structured program as a patient.
Pearson says the gathering in Nashville will be an international affair with attendees from the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and other countries. She says all 50 states will also be represented.
The event will include sessions on such topics as nutrition, exercise, and other issues of interest to women living with the disease. But she says it will also include other events just for fun, like the closing night concert at the Grand Ole Opry by country singer Martina McBride.
About 800 to 1,000 women are expected to attend the convention. The Alliance is raising money to provide financial support for women who otherwise would not be able to come.
The My Second Act project encourages women from around the world to write essays on the theme “Cancer was the journey, survivorship was the destination – what are you doing with what you have learned?” There’s a July 31st deadline to submit them so they can be featured during the convention the following month. Women can submit as many essays as they like online. Although the project is not a contest, Pearson says she hopes both the writing and the reading of the essays will prove therapeutic for women cancer survivors. They will be included in the Alliance’s new online magazine The Plum.