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Health Union Is Real!

I know that sounds completely bonkers but writing from the UK, I never understood how big Health Union is, how many staff there are, and how many websites they run. But after going to their Connexion conference in October, I now know how real it is! (For those who don’t know, Health Union is the company that runs!) And I also understand a bit more about these sorts of sites/companies in America, whilst we don’t really have them here in England. Well, we do, but they are run by charities so it’s all a bit different.

Nervous about attending a conference in America

I’m not going to lie, I was extremely hesitant about what the conference would be like and in all honesty, I wasn’t that excited about it. I had a completely mental couple of weeks before flying out. So mental that I completely forgot about getting my ESTA (my travel authorization), and IF it had taken the 72 hours they say to leave between applying for it and flying to the States, well, I wouldn’t have been at the conference at all. So, the thought of spending 2 days with people I didn’t know, and making it worse ‘happy Americans’, was not appealing. At. All.

However, I was completely blown away by how ‘un American’ it was. It wasn’t all cheers, and yays, and YOU CAN DO IT. It was honest and I definitely didn’t feel like the token, emotionally stunted Brit. I think also, considering the tone of most of my posts, some people were surprised that I a) smile and b) am always happy to hug!

An opportunity to meet other blood cancer advocates

So, the conference was fab. I really enjoyed meeting some of the other blood cancer advocates and people from the other sites, too. And it was also SO amazing to meet the two site leads who found me and asked me to write for the site.

Sightseeing in Philadelphia

It was also amazing to go to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and see all the amazing art that is there. I studied loads of it during my History of Art degree so to see the Seurat, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Bosh, el Greco paintings, etc. etc. etc. in person completely blew me away. I actually got very emotional and nearly started crying. I think that was also due to the fact that I was studying all those artists just before I was diagnosed. My History of Art degree is bittersweet as I didn’t end up with the full MA (Hons) that I should have gotten. That I tried so hard to get. That my tutor wouldn’t allow me to do. That was definitely a part of it.

Going to that gallery is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far.

A reminder to not let our diagnoses define us

So, I don’t know that I came away from the weekend thinking I’d been to a life-changing event. But, it was amazing to be surrounded by people who deal with sh*t health issues every day but are carrying on with life the best way they can…like I do. Seeing a room full of people who do not let their diagnosis define them…well, that’s pretty phenomenal.

And of course, if there is a conference next year, I would love to be there if I can.

And I’m also very grateful that Pamela and Anthony, who manage the site, found me and took this crazy whingy, swearing Brit on.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 months ago

    Same here Ann… maybe next year!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    2 months ago

    I’m glad you got to go and enjoyed the conference. I really wish I got to go. I’m hoping next year works out. Thanks for sharing a bit of your memory.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 months ago

    Same here Ann… maybe next year!

  • Ronni Gordon moderator
    2 months ago

    Great post, Katie. It was great meeting you. Everyone was very impressed that you made it. Glad you had fun in Philly. If you ever want to talk about the possibility of having a stem cell transplant, let me know. Not everyone takes as many pills as I do!

  • Mike Padjen
    2 months ago

    @katieruane, Connexion would no have been the same without you. Sue and I love your “cheekiness”. It was great spending time with you. Hope you are able to make it back next year to see us shiny, happy Yanks

  • Anthony Carrone moderator
    2 months ago

    @katieruane – We were so pumped that you were able to come to Connexion! We absolutely love your writing and seeing how it resonates with the community so it was really special to be able to meet you and the group of advocates in person. I’m glad you were able to go to the Barnes Foundation to make this trip complete. I’ve never been, but after hearing you talk about it I feel like I should go check it out.

    It’s an honor getting to work with you and I look forward to the chance of meeing you in person again!

    PS. Thanks for coming to my morning meditations! I hope you enjoyed them!

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