In 2003, the Oncology Aftercare program saw the need for an increase in formal educational activities to address the issues surrounding the childhood cancer survivor. Under the support of the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario and its then Anniversary Lecture Series, the committee held two conferences in 2004 and 2005. These conferences “P is for Prevention: Health Promotion in Survivors of Childhood Cancer” and “A Lifetime of Care: Management of Adult Survivors” were great successes. These conferences focused on medical late effects of childhood cancer treatment and health promotion in survivors and targeted the health care professionals.
In 2005, based on feedback from survivors in our program, we restructured our event to offer an open presentation welcoming survivors of childhood cancer and their families. This open presentation was very well received. With the overwhelming feedback from survivors and their families, providing education and resources for physical and psychosocial needs of the patient/survivor was identified as an urgent priority.
The OAP started planning the first S.H.A.R.E. conference for 2006 with a target audience of patients, survivors and their families. This was the first conference ever offered in the province directed to this specific audience. The acronym S.H.A.R.E. was derived from the idea of Survivors Health: Advocating for Resources and Education - the overall theme of this conference.
In 2006, the inaugural SHARE conference “I’ve Survived my Cancer, Now What?” was the theme of addressing the vocational, educational and psychosocial needs of survivors. The conference saw more than 100 participants, 20 exhibitors from the community offering resources and contact information, an international guest speaker, a panel of survivors sharing their experiences and focus groups for attendees to participate in depending on their individual needs. Feedback from attendees, exhibitors, focus group facilitators and panel guests was undeniable – the conference was a victory and a huge achievement for the Oncology Aftercare Program. To continue the momentum gained from this conference it was agreed that the SHARE conference should be established as a regular event.
In 2008, the 2nd SHARE Conference “SAFER Sex: Sexuality And Fertility Education and Resources” was held with a marked increase in attendees. This conference offered the same format with expert guest speakers, special guest panel, focus groups and community resources on display. Excellent evaluations revealed that attendees were satisfied and wanting more, securing the need for SHARE as an annual event.
In 2009, we were very honored to have Mr. Brian Price, pediatric cancer survivor and 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, agreed to be our Keynote speaker. As an Olympic athlete and a childhood cancer survivor himself, Mr. Price was an inspiration to all survivors and their. One of the underlying issues that survivors often struggle with is motivation to identify and achieve their personal and professional life goals. This is what we hoped to impart and empower the survivors with throughout the conference, providing them with the necessary inspiration and motivational tools and resources to help them work towards and realize their dreams. Our Go for the Gold conference met those goals - Mr. Price passionately, empathetically and sincerely motivated all our participants.
Time and time again the SHARE conferences have consistently demonstrated that the education, social interaction and networking opportunities provided have been extremely beneficial to our patients, their families, our community organizations and collaborating institutions.