Laughter, Big Dreams + Cancer
Once Upon A Time ... there was Shine. A cancer support organisation dedicated to supporting young adults in their 20's, 30's and 40's who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
Shine facilitate 'normal stuff' for young adult cancer patients and survivors: arranging regular social gatherings in various locations across the UK (Shine Network), great getaways like Shine Camp and The Great Escape, and fabulous workshops that get to the nitty-gritty of specific issues that young adults with cancer face: work issues, relationships, sex, etc.
In Spring 2015, I was lucky enough to attend the excellent Working With Cancer workshop in London, delivered by Barbara of Working With Cancer, which is where I met Emma, one of the founders of Shine. Shine was Emma's vision to provide the support that she, herself, had so badly needed ... and Shine keeps on growing, bigger and bigger, giving much-needed outlets for fun and emotional support in a variety of ways.
[read my reflections on 'Working With Cancer' workshop: Working With Cancer - learn how to adjust your sails]
I was delighted to hear that Shine were hosting their first-ever Conference this year, in Central London. Sex, Relationships, Managing Anxiety and Working With Cancer were on the list - hot topics for young adults with cancer.
Imagine, then, how exciting it was to receive an invitation from Shine to share Laughter Yoga at their Shine Connect Conference! *wheeeee* I accepted in a flash, before they had chance to think about it twice!
So on a bright, yet chilly, Saturday morning in April 2016, I set off along Southbank towards the beautiful Mondrian London hotel, the stunning location for Shine Connect Conference.
The Conference was amazing: fabulous attention to detail, our every need taken care of, and super-illuminating panel discussions and speakers. Professor Gerard Evan blew us away with his fantastic keynote talk on cancer, therapies and the possibility for a cure (apparently, there are very promising developments in oncogene research) ...
We also had a Moonshine tasting session in the afternoon break with Shine London: I wholeheartedly recommend you give their Peach Moonshine a try. It is truly divine! A fleeting thought of combining Laughter Yoga + moonshine shots jumped into my mind, but it was swiftly followed by the notion it may fall under the banner of 'reckless and irresponsible behaviour', so I reined that idea back in again *hahaha*
So. What about
Laughter Yoga. Cancer. Big Dreams.
I got really lucky. Lucky and very blessed to share three 15-minute Laughter Yoga sessions during tea-breaks and lunch. Our first two sessions had 9 attendees (different peeps each time, how wonderful!); that equalled about 20% of the Conference attendees - a pretty good success rate, methinks, for something that can be seen as a bit wacky or 'out there'. Some of the Mondrian London team also looked in, probably wondering what the heck we were doing in Studio 3!
Now, Laughter Yoga sessions cannot possibly be condensed into 15 minutes ... so I gave a whistle-stop tour of Laughter Yoga, the history, the benefits, and how Laughter Yoga had helped me personally during cancer treatment in 2011/2012 plus a few quick laughter exercises to give a taste of the physical benefits, all designed to show how easy and non-yoga-bendy it is as an exercise for those with active cancer, or in recovery and remission. Laughter Yoga is incredibly flexible and adaptable, and the Happy Cell song went down a storm!
Yet what people had NO idea about was just how big a deal it was to me, to be invited to the Shine Connect Conference wearing my Laughter Yoga Teacher hat. (Or ladybird deelyboppers, as was the reality!)
For my big dream, since I took part in the Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher training in November 2012, has been to bring Laughter Yoga to the cancer community.
Shine Cancer Support - and the wonderful, up-for-it Shine Connect Conference attendees - made my dream come true on Saturday 23rd April 2016.
I cannot even begin to express my sincere gratitude to Emma and Ceinwen of Shine, for being so open to Laughter Yoga and for extending such a perfectly-timed invitation to allow my Big Dream to come true.
(and Ceinwen - you are such an amazing Laughter Yogi! you did good, girl!)
May the light keep Shine-ing brightly on my vision to bring Laughter Yoga to the wider cancer community ... and you can get started, today, by signing up for our free 21 Days of Laughter Challenge, a gentle intro to how laughter can benefit us in so many ways.
Big thank-you's to
- Emma and Ceinwen from Shine: for your kind invitation, and for being SO FABULOUS!
- Professor Gerard Evan, Cambridge University, for giving up his Saturday afternoon
- All the events staff at the Mondrian London
- The great team from The Turner Agency + DMS
- and to Emily and Barbara for sharing their wisdom so freely, and to all the other lovely peeps who made this event happen (please forgive me for not naming you here, my chemo-brain lets me down on occasion when trying to recall finer detail).
... and if you are wondering what happened on the last 15-minute Laughter Yoga session? Well ... nothing. I was well and truly Moonshine'd by Shine London! Everyone got so busy sampling moonshine that Laughter Yoga was forgotten ... *hehehehe*
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