Guest blog by Carol Mikel

I have worked with the IBC Network Foundation for over three years, with the last two years under Covid restrictions when we couldn’t have in-person events. This year things have opened back up and we were able to attend the two major conferences in person. The 7th International Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symposium was in Houston and the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio, Texas. This was the first time I had the chance to attend either of these events, and let me tell you, it’s more than a little intimidating to walk into a room full of brilliant doctors, researchers, and patient advocates when your line of work is digital marketing!

I was introduced to lots of people, and I have to say they were all super nice, and once we got started, I was able to get comfortable and not feel so intimidated. I could also understand more than I thought I would as the doctors made their presentations. I do have some knowledge of IBC, after all I work with Terry Arnold daily, but for the most part the science blew my mind. Not only that, but these doctors have a passion for finding better treatments and one day a cure for IBC that surprised me. I felt lucky to be there among these brilliant people.

Next up was the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. When I arrived in San Antonio, I couldn’t believe how many people were there just for the SABCS. Since I live only two and half hours from San Antonio, I’ve been there several times but never have I seen so many people who were attending the same event. Everywhere I went I saw people who had SABCS badges, and this was before I even made it to the convention center. It really made me feel like I was part of something special.

The convention center is huge and the many presentations and learning sessions were so deep in the science I once again was almost overwhelmed by it all. There were so many poster sessions with new research that I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I was personally surprised to see patient advocates sitting on discussion panels with doctors and did not realize the importance of patient advocates to the research process. I was learning a lot. Attending these events were like a crash course in all things medically related to breast cancer. It was an experience I will not soon forget, and I very much look forward to attending again next year.

Something else that surprised me was the networking that took place everywhere which is a huge plus whether you are a doctor, researcher, or advocate. Meeting with people you don’t normally get to see in person and having a conversation over a cup of coffee can lead to making things happen. At both these events you can take a break anytime you wish, and while at the SABCS I took time to find a soft place to sit and relax for a few minutes to turn my brain off. A huge plus was all the free coffee you can drink. That really came in handy because it was quite cold in the rooms where the sessions were held. If you ever go to one of these events, and I highly suggest you do, bring a sweater! It was 80 degrees outside but I’m fairly sure it was 65 degrees inside.

I feel like these are great places for advocates to learn and really feel like they are part of something bigger. Whether the doctors or researchers are presenting to a packed room full of their peers or standing in front of a poster that details new research, you can feel the passion they have for what they do. As someone who has heard and seen many stories about IBC from patients or their families, this made me feel better about the future of breast cancer, and especially IBC. It makes you feel like there will someday be a cure if we continue to have doctors, researchers, and advocates like those I met this past week.

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