Multiple Sclerosis goes back to Chicago!
Janssen covered my travel expenses to attend HealtheVoices17. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
It would be scary if a successful company like Janssen thought the crazy way I do!)
It was the first morning. Despite the super comfy beds in the wicked nice rooms, everyone was dying for caffeine. Newbies like me didn’t know what to expect but we definitely knew that some form of caffeine (tea for me-thank you) would help prepare us.
I was on one side of the steaming pots when I started talking to the friendly girl across from me.
Her- what’s your health condition?
Me- multiple sclerosis
I laughed and she got that uncomfortable look people get when they say something they think they shouldn’t have. I have yet to hear someone say “wonderful” when told of my MS diagnosis. But it was all good, because we were here. We were two of the invited attendees for the HealtheVoices 2017 conference and despite my cognitive issues, I knew exactly what she meant.
Her name was Julie Cerrone (@justagoodlife) and she advocates for Psoriatic Arthritis and Avascular Necrosis. Before that day I didn’t even know what Avascular Necrosis was, some type of a Greek god maybe?
But I was to learn as Julie wound up being seated at our table for our meet and greet exercise. It was here that she introduced herself, told us she was a second timer and thus, was also an advisor, and explained her illness and her advocacy work.
She wrapped up by saying “Let’s advocate the shit out of each other!”
And with that, the awesome conference began with over 105 advocates representing 35 different chronic health conditions. And we weren’t just local, coming from all over the US and as far away as Thailand, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, that outback country to the southwest, Australia, and that rival hockey country to the North, Canada.
The theme for this year was Together We Thrive and thrive we did!
At the opening exercises I sat back and stopped worrying about if I should be worried that my emergency contact information was on the back of my conference badge. (Did the sponsors know something I didn’t know?)
HealtheVoices is put on by Janssen and is designed to help online health advocates better advocate and feel supported. With the inspirational speeches, the informative workshops, the friendships new and old, (I had met the four other MS advocates during my last trip to Chicago and we’re in touch often,) and the super positive energy, I definitely felt supported.
I hadn’t felt this supported since two friends picked me up out of some bushes after a night of heavy drinking over 25 years ago. But that’s a story for a different blog.
I met such interesting advocates such as an adorable T-Rex, who knew that extinction is a chronic illness-not me, and the Australian Mick Jagger of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Luke Escombe, (@MrEscombe.) No, he didn’t make that title up- he had some cool Rolling Stones stories to offer as proof. And he IS famous. In addition to being a singer, a comedian, and an amazing advocate, he is also Sydney’s sexiest voice contest winner.
I also fell a little bit in love with one of the speakers who gave a humbling but amusing speech that reminded me of a former US President whom I also love.
Janssen wined and dined us and I mean truly with the wine.
How can you make a fantastic conference even better? Add wine with the nice dinners.
Speaking of dinner, they fed us well and even included healthy fare. I actually tried quinoa and it wasn’t horrible! I drew the line at crispy oyster mushrooms though. I mean really, sometimes the health kick can get a little crazy.
In addition to empowering each other we learned many things from the many workshops, things designed to help us better help our readers and followers. I wish I had the room to share all of these things with you or to talk about the many amazing people I met or about particulars of all the illnesses I learned about but there’s just not that much room here.
I hope to use the lessons I learned to make my website a better resource for you. And I’m keeping my new friendships close to my heart so that we can continue to share, grow and empower each other always
The bottom line is that I was blessed to be included in this fabulous event and I can’t thank Janssen and the many other sponsors enough for hosting it. Also many thanks to my friend and fellow MS blogger Dave Bexfield, (ActiveMSers) who told me about the conference in the first place. If you would like to learn more, check out HealtheVoices.com
PS At the conference I was also able to take a turn during the open mic night. If you would like to see my embarrassing five minute bit you can check it out on my YouTube channel here. There are other videos up as well and if you watch I promise you will giggle, at least at how bad my video skills are!
And, speaking of giggles, don’t forget to go to the new Giggle tab of my website to add a funny chronic illness story of your own!