My Life as a Booth Babe
After I retired from the Army, I started working at a healthcare information system company. One of the requirements was to work booths at major conventions. Recommended attire was usually a blazer, high heels, and a relatively short skirt. Although, mine wasn’t nearly as short as my colleagues though, I mean by that time I was over forty after all. But we “booth babes” definitely had a particular style. We spent the days working the booth in our attempt to attract business for the organization and passing out conference “freebees.” Our evenings, with sleeker outfits and higher heels, were spent networking to drum up more contacts.
Fast forward a number of years. I have now been diagnosed with both breast cancer and a blood cancer called polycythemia vera (PV). Although breast cancer and treatment are now mostly in the rearview mirror (and hopefully will stay that way), the PV still impacts my day-to-day life.
In the past couple of years, I’ve become involved in a number of cancer support organizations as a volunteer. One of these organizations is called Curtain Up Cancer Foundation. Curtain Up provides creative art outlets to anyone impacted by cancer. One of the ways to get the word out on our programs is to attend cancer conferences and 5K races and set up booths to show what we do.
Back to the booth
So began my second life as a “booth babe.” Funny how my experience has changed though from years past.
First, is my conference attire. Long gone are the high heels. Between the plantar fasciitis and bone pain from the PV, sensible “granny-type” or running shoes with good support have replaced my high heels. No more chasing down potential clients either. I spend most of my time sitting at the booth and off my feet. Also gone are the short skirts and blazers. A comfortable t-shirt and a sweater are their replacement. This is because I have little tolerance for cold and the itchy irritated skin from the PV, makes wearing anything too tight, uncomfortable.
One bitter cold day we had the booth at a 5K race. I had my t-shirt over three layers of outer clothing in order to stay warm. When I look now at the pictures I laugh and wonder what my former booth counterparts would think as I looked like I weighed 250 lbs.
The same...But different
Next is the clientele. Attendees are cancer patients, their caregivers, and health care professionals looking for services to assist them in their cancer journey.
Other prominent non-profit cancer-related organizations like Hearts Need Art and Thrivewell typically surround our booth. There might be some minor competition to get the attendees to sign up for newsletters or programs. However, there is not the cutthroat struggle for clientele like in the past. We are all there to help cancer patients.
Last year I found out that The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) support included myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) including PV, so I began volunteering with them. Each year the LLS holds a Blood Cancer Conference in San Antonio in February. Since there was an MPN breakout scheduled that I planned to attend, I recommended we take the booth to this event. It was a full day for me as I was an attendee, an LLS volunteer, and assisted in running the booth.
We did have a full booth schedule this spring and summer. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all cancer-related conferences and events in the area have been canceled. Although necessary, it’s still a little disappointing as I was really enjoying my renewed life as a booth babe on the conference circuit.
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