Reflections of LiveSTRONG: 2013 Leader Assembly

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If I were to boil down the 2013 LiveSTRONG Leader assembly into two words, love, passion, motivation and purpose would certainly be in the running, but then again, when you bring over 200 cancer advocates together in one location, they always are… The two words that stand out for me after this week’s meeting in Chicago however are “meaningful intention.”  A central focus of this year’s assembly: creating a roadmap of meaningful intention for each region was paramount and, quite frankly, amazing.

Leaders had the opportunity to envision the next steps that LiveSTRONG should be taking as a foundation as well as by region focusing on the needs of people living with a cancer diagnosis her in the U.S. as well as across the globe.  Brought together again for our yearly assembly by the folks at HQ who work tirelessly though the year to bring a diverse group of leaders from all areas of the world together for brainstorming, planning initiative ideas and reports on what the needs in specific areas are, this year’s assembly was no different.  LiveSTRONG Headquarters ushered us into Chicago with the generous spirit of collaboration and the result was, again, fantastic.

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Webster defines Meaningful as: “significant, expressive…” and Intention as: “a thing intended, an aim, or a plan” and our time together was spent marrying those two broad concepts together in a way that would best serve people living with a cancer diagnosis worldwide.

One powerful thing that took place was a stronger voice was given to hearing our international colleagues.  Working to advance and improve the lives of people living with cancer in regions outside of the US holds its own particular challenges.  Stigma for a cancer diagnosis is still strong in many communities and tribes.  Cancer can be seen as witchcraft or punishment by god.  Some communities actively isolate someone who is diagnosed with cancer, as well as their family members because cancer can be seen, also, as contagious.  This reiterated the fact that much work still remains to be done.  Although LiveSTRONG has worked hard to bring cancer to the global agenda of non-communicable diseases, these misconceptions still remain not only abroad, but in certain communities in the US, as well.  It was made clear that one of our most powerful meaningful intentions should be education.  Every region should have some focus on educating a person living with a cancer diagnosis on the causes of cancer.  Families need to understand that cancer is not something you catch, not something that is a punishment for previous action, not a curse, not a death sentence…  These statements can seem facile prima fascia, but when looked at in the context of where a person lives, should be addressed with respect, education, and action. 

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Leaders were challenged with the question of meaningful action in coming up with a definition… “What is meaningful action?  What does it look like?  What is the impact of it?”  All very good and quite pertinent questions… How do we create meaningful action that has a successful outcome?  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes trial and error is the most effective method.  The key is in not becoming discouraged and in actively using our relationships with other leaders to assess and augment our approach.  One gift in something that feels like it fails is the fact that we know that “this may not work this time of year, in this political climate of the population that we serve.  It frees us to move on to try another approach.  Meaningful action for one that serves one’s constituency today, may not serve another’s tomorrow, or the next day, but the exchanging of ideas and the hashing out of plans doesn’t lose its power. 

LiveSTRONG has been a fixture on the American scene, but is more newly introduced in other areas of the world.  In some of those areas, a man cannot talk with a woman about female cancers, a person living with a cancer diagnosis has to cross cultural borders and barriers to receive treatment… these are issues that are garnering more attention from leaders as well as LiveSTRONG as a whole. 

Meaningful intentions must translate into meaningful action.  Those actions must be geared to a variety of populations.  No assumptions can afford to be made because someone’s health and survival is reliant upon it. 

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Disseminating the LiveSTRONG message worldwide may not be as easy as some of us think.  Consider language barriers, cultural barriers, religious beliefs…  In our global world, we see so many things as a given, if we are from the U.S.  What about internet censorship in China, marginalization of women in India, superstition in some parts of the continent of Africa?  In some regions of the world, baby steps are the steps that move us forward.  We in the U.S., no matter how well intentioned, are outsiders. In some areas of the world we are resented for our views and for what is seen as intrusion.  We must respect the communities that we move into.  As much as we want to help, teach, support, and encourage, we must do so respectfully.  This is the stance we must take abroad as well as in our home-areas. 

I returned home to Ithaca from Chicago with visions of yellow & black sugar-plums dancing in my head… but my consideration has to be the population that I serve.  What do the people and families in my region need?  Education?  Support?  Navigation?  Yes, to all.  They need action that is meaningful to each one of them on a personal basis.  And as a LiveSTRONG Leader, I am poised and ready to provide it.

If you, or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, please contact us.  We, at LiveSTRONG, can help.  Get free, one-on-one support: 855.270.7777

Cancer.Navigation@livestrong.org

http://www.livestrong.org/get-help/get-one-on-one-support/livestrong-cancer-navigation-center

Services available in English, or Spanish

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Comments
2 Responses to “Reflections of LiveSTRONG: 2013 Leader Assembly”
  1. Great job, Heather! “Meaningful intentions must translate into meaningful action.” – very true indeed.

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