Saturday, March 6, 2010

Neither Sleet Nor Snow Could Keep PBG From YSC

I am not sure anybody had a better time at the Young Survivor's Conference than Pamela Beth Grossman. She was literally glowing the whole weekend, despite all the obstacles she faced getting there. In this essay she lets us know why.

Like Suzanne and Deb, I struggled to get to the conference in Atlanta, due to the charms of an ice storm followed by a blizzard. But the stubbornness that kept me working, going to parties, and matching my scarves to my shoes during chemo (if I looked put-together, what could be wrong?) kicked in; and after my original flight and about 7 others I was booked onto were cancelled—and the airline told me they'd be happy to get me out on Sunday, from NYC to Atlanta via Chicago!—I was on my way (from Newark, on Friday night, direct).

Why make this effort? I asked myself that a few times as one plan after another did not work out. This was to be my second conference. My first had been as emotional as it was high-spirited; and for several weeks afterward, I'd dreamt of young woman after young woman, an endless, determined, angry, loving, and urgent stream, coming to tell me she'd had breast cancer. Did I really need to sign up for that again?

Well...yes. Because I needed to see long-distance "survivor sisters." I needed to see, live, the faces of some I'd cyber-connected with but not yet gotten to officially meet. And,  though I didn't know it yet, I needed to meet some others whom the universe was preparing to throw my way. I needed to show everyone that my hair is longer now (needs a trim, in fact) and that my cheeks have color; I needed to tell, and show, girls still in treatment that "the other side" is out there waiting. On the other hand, two friends of mine had hair at last year's conference and this year do not. We can't know what's coming-another reason I needed to go.

A lot of this, as it turned out, was represented in the "mindfulness meditation" seminar led by Michael Baime, MD, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Baime also directs the university's Program for Mindfulness (who knew there was one?) and the Mind-Body programs for the Abramson Cancer Center within U. Penn's health system.

Dr. Baime was cute in an Ivy League professor kind of way; but when he started speaking, for me at least, he became Dr. McDreamy. He spoke about how calming stress can promote physical healing and how focussing on the moment at hand, really diving into it, is critical to a full and emotionally healthy life; and then he led us through exercises to help us get the knack of those things. He was funny, he was smart, and he wasn't telling anyone she needed more pills. A room full of young women collectively exhaled, happy to embrace his approaches.

Dr. Baime's seminar and the conference at large were in sync for me. Life *is* about moments, every moment—even those suckier moments—and what we choose to do with them. With each time I looked into a friend's (sometimes tearful) eyes, with each gale of laughter and each second on a dance floor, I knew it. My only regret is that I didn't have nearly enough moments there to interact; but I tried to do Dr. Baime, and myself, proud and dive fully into all that came my way.

Pamela Grossman is a writer ("The Village Voice,", "Ms., etc.), editor, breast-cancer survivor, and music junkie living in Brooklyn.


  1. I attended and loved Dr. Baime's workshop too. He had me won over with his bunny story. Then, knowing that I was meditating in a room filled with breast cancer survivors was so empowering. For me, the guided meditation brought about such feelings of connectedness and peace. I walked out of there so relaxed,smiling and filled with a feeling of lightness. I can't wait to load up his audio files on my iPod.


  2. I'm sorry I missed this one! Hopefully it will be posted soon!

  3. So glad we got to attend the MM seminar together. And so glad you encouraged me to go. It did really speak to me and made me realize that it's time for a change. Love your musings, dead sister. xoxox

  4. That was DEAR sister. D E A R. [nervously laughing and mortified]

  5. You know, I DID notice your hair needed a trim! Get thee to a hair salon, woman! Pam, you are beautiful inside and out and I loved seeing you again. Your thoughts on the conference were right on. Who knew breast cancer could be so empowering?

  6. Debbie that's a great quote

    Who knew breast cancer could be so empowering?

  7. oy vey! "r" and "d" shouldn't be near each other on the keyboard!

    yes, deb, for sure! it needs trimming and i didn't have time before i left, so i figured i'd go with the length angle and get the trim ASAP. : ) and that is a great quote...the strength we can find in ourselves and in community is an incredible thing.

  8. Dr. Baime joined a group of us Pink Ribbon Girls, a support group for young women in Cincinnati, for dinner Saturday night at the conference. He was so brave to be the lone male in the group! I really wish I went to his breakout session.

  9. I'm very impressed. Anyone who has fought cancer is resilient, and you showed that also with your trip to the YSC. Good for you, and I'm glad you enjoyed being there.

    I'm checking out their site, for I'd like to go next year.