I was recently awarded funding to attend a European conference exploring the experiences of teenagers and young adults with cancer. The conference took place at the world famous Curie Institute in Paris which was an added bonus (and it was so much warmer than the UK!). The event was organised by the European Network for Teenage and Young Adult Cancer (ENTYAC) and included a wide range of speakers and delegates from countries including: Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, France and the UK.
The subject matter for the conference was diverse with attention given too many different perspectives of the cancer journey. The first day was focused on the organisation of cancer services around Europe and how practitioners worked within organisations. The second day was a mixture of clinical management and the experiences of teenagers and young adults with cancer, and the final day explored some of the key issues for this age group both during and after treatment. These sessions highlighted areas such as fertility preservation, consent and ethical dilemmas.
The conference gave me the perfect opportunity to meet and network with people from a number of disciplines who are leaders in this emerging field. I had discussions with philosophers, specialist and consultant nurses, haematologists, oncologists and most notably teenagers and young adults who had experienced cancer treatment. Indeed a workshop held on the second day consisted of a panel involving a patient group which revealed a great deal of information, particularly relating to my own area of research interest, decision making. The young people talked about the different types of decisions that they had to make, how this was sometimes difficult and how at times they felt either isolated or over protected by their families when making decisions. I was also struck by one young person’s account of the secrecy that surrounded her initial diagnosis, with her parents not wanting to reveal what was happening in the very early stages as she arrived at the hospital for a discussion with the medical team.
My other notable memory is of how keen people were to help me develop my research. They happily gave me their contact numbers and one of the young adults offered to help me develop my interview questions which was, I felt, really really encouraging. I plan to work with him in the near future as I develop the study and am really looking forward to spending some time talking with him about his experience.
I would really recommend that students apply for funding to attend such events. It is beneficial in terms of learning new knowledge, networking and helping further refine your own study. I also got half a day free due to flight times and went along to the Louvre for a look around which is where the picture was taken!