My Experiences with GVCC

~Liz Hiles

The Global Virtual Cancer Conference (GVCC) registration is LIVE right now! Register NOW to join us for #GVCC22! 

I know those of you who have been to GVCC in years past are excited. However, if you’re new to Gryt Health or GVCC, in general, let me share a bit about my personal GVCC experience so that you too can be just as excited to join us this year!

My introduction to Gryt Health

I have been involved with Gryt Health since its early days. Back then, during the days when I was literally lying in a hospital bed fighting for my life as a post-op patient who had just had a radical cystectomy with a radical hysterectomy and urostomy placement and was experiencing complications, I found the app.

The app was literally my lifeline. Zoom was around at that time, but it was only used for business purposes. No one was doing support groups by Zoom. I was not able to go out for extra trips. Chemo annihilated my ability to be in public. I didn’t have the energy and was constantly nauseated and vomiting. So in the middle of the night when I was experiencing insomnia, vomiting, or hot flashes, I got on the app to connect with others so I could connect with folks who understood what I was going through while I simultaneously messaged friends across the globe in different time zones that I thought would be awake so they could talk me down from my panic, despair, and loneliness. 

My failed attempt to join

A couple of years later, Gryt Health held its first GVCC in November 2019. I recall signing up for it and had instructions to access the sessions through the app. I was working +40 hours a week at the time and did not have computer access at home. I tried to access the sessions from my iPhone 5S in the evenings when I was at home but was not successful. I was disappointed but chalked it up to my inexperience with virtual events and the fact that I did not have computer access during the times I could join the sessions. 

In Summer 2020, in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found out Gryt Health was involved in a research project for bladder cancer patients. I signed up and qualified to participate. I was able to do an interview with Darcy for the patient experience research with the Gryt Project. We hit it off and had a fantastic conversation about my horrible experience with bladder cancer. 

Not long after that interaction, and feeling increasingly frustrated and isolated as a single immuno-compromised person living alone during a pandemic, I decided to seek out more and more virtual support for both my cancer and ostomy experiences. I don’t recall how many meetups or programs I attended with Gryt Health before this, but I don’t think I have missed many since. I also got connected with Stupid Cancer and Elephants and Tea magazine, under the Steven G. Cancer Foundation umbrella, over those coming weeks. 

My first actual GVCC

A few months later, I was contacted by Lauren with an invitation to serve on a panel for GVCC 2020. I eagerly accepted and was guided through the process of being a panelist. 

Initially, when I agreed, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend all of the sessions or not because of my employment situation. However, the coming weeks and months showed immense changes in my life and my employment situation shifted, which enabled me to not only speak on the panel but to attend the entire two-day conference. 

Those two days were just chocked full of invaluable information and opportunities to network with other patients and survivors as well as people from a number or non-profit and industry professionals in the oncology sphere. 

Obligatory selfie before the panel I participated in.

I was in The Importance of Your Voice session at noon on the first day. Gryt Health Co-Founder & CEO, Dave Craig, moderated the session. The other panelists included 2 people from the oncology research spheres and another patient advocate. I thrived in this interactive panel setting and thoroughly enjoyed speaking during my turns as well as answering questions via the Zoom chat feature during the hour-long session. 

During the rest of the conference, I soaked in as much information as I could and was thrilled to learn that I would have the opportunity to view recordings of the other sessions that I wasn’t able to attend live. Having made the transition to being a full-time writer and advocate just months before, I not only wanted the information, I needed it. I was in a mode to learn as much as I could so I could actually do something I was immensely passionate about while paying my bills. Speaking on the panel and attending the conference was a major step for me. 

I literally went into every single virtual booth at GVCC that year. If there was a representative in the virtual both, I had a messaging conversation with that person. I learned a lot and made new connections. Most remarkably with the Founder & CEO of Young Adult Survivors United (YASU), Stephanie Scoletti, with whom I’ve become good friends. 

My second GVCC

The following year, 2021, as the pandemic raged on, I kept writing and advocating, picking up regular contractual work with several companies and organizations. I had several opportunities to meet with various staff from Gryt Health. My appearance on the panel had apparently made a lasting impact on a number of people because almost every time I spoke with someone, I was told things like, “Your name came up in a conversation the other day.” 

Eventually, I was offered a position on the staff. After careful consideration, I accepted and started on August 30, 2021, which meant that one year from my first appearance on a panel at a conference, I was actually a team member working it!

As a team member working this as an event remotely, I was able to soak in a lot of the information for the sessions I actually attended, while also getting to see more of the reactions from the attendees about the event. That was very rewarding for me. It let me know that I was in the right place to do all the things that I wanted to do in order to support, encourage and assist patients and survivors in living through their cancer experience and beyond. 

What I look forward to every year

The watercolor painting I did during a guided presentation during GVCC 2021

This year will be my third experience with GVCC, the second experience as a team member. I always look forward to the opportunity to learn more about cancer and connect with people from the cancer community. For me, this is the main draw to GVCC, besides the fact that you can literally join from anywhere and that GVCC meets you exactly where you are…even if that means you’re in a hospital bed or curled up at home in pajama pants and a t-shirt doing your damnedest to not vomit on camera! 

I look forward to interacting with all of our speakers and attendees on social media every year! Following the hashtag of the acronym plus the year, so for this year, it’s #GVCC22. Engaging with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and even LinkedIn, is a fantastic way to not only continue to connect and interact with our cancer peers but also connect and interact with the speakers and organizations participating in GVCC. Did your favorite session run out of time before they got to your question? Reach out to that person and directly ask it! I guarantee you’re not the only one who had that question and that way, instead of a ton of individual emails or private messages to an expert or peer, you can publicly ask it so that others can see the question and follow for the answer! 

Also, engaging with us on social media is a great reminder in the future for you to attend future GVCC events! Those gosh-darned memories on Facebook, Twitter, and Timehop may haunt you with your treatment memories, but these will remind you of a great time that you have the opportunity to recreate or expand upon!

What’s new this year

Photo of me on Day 1 of GVCC21

This year, not only is GVCC spanning over FOUR DAYS, but we’ve two whole new dimensions to the event and the overall event has been restructured! In years past, our programming team led the GVCC efforts and while they did a fantastic job, in order to grow GVCC to be the truly global event we envision it to be, it really is a full-time job. Therefore, Gryt Health hired Hailey as our Global Virtual Cancer Conference Empowerment Manager in January. Her job has literally been to work on and improve GVCC in measurable ways so that the community can get more bang out of the experience, so to speak. She is adding a prevention track so that anyone can join us if they want to learn more about cancer and the ways that it can be prevented. Hailey also added specific sessions geared towards medical professionals on Saturday. These sessions are open to everyone, though we do caution that the conversation will be clinically based. The Saturday sessions will be eligible for CEUs for those social workers and HR professionals this year, with the hopes that we’ll be able to expand this to researchers and medical roles next year.

Also on par for this year are open community spaces for attendees to self-identify and join networking conversations via Zoom. These will be safe places for you to introduce yourself and get to know others in the specified communities within the cancer community. This is something that I have seen done at other conferences and have thoroughly enjoyed. 

We will also have some group activities at the end of each day that people can opt to participate in. Last year, we had interactive art, guided relaxation, yoga, and an interactive magic show. All of these activities were a big hit. We can’t spill the beans on what is being offered this year quite yet, but we are positive you’ll enjoy it!

A unique opportunity

As team members, we have the unique opportunity to travel to Gryt Health’s home base of Rochester, New York to work on GVCC together as a team. Last year, due to preexisting medical appointments before and after the conference, I was not able to be with the team in Rochester. However, I am pumped to experience this for the first time this year. (Don’t worry, I definitely will be masking!) 

Many people on the Gryt Health team I have known for years now. I have developed friendships with these people and care deeply for them. Still, we have never met in person! I am immensely looking forward to being in person with these folks and getting to know them much better! Hopefully, with their permission, I’ll even get to share a bit of that experience publicly! 

Being in person with a large group of people for GVCC is definitely not something that many get to experience since it is a virtual conference, after all. However, I really enjoyed the looks on people’s faces and gasps that were audibly heard last year when everyone who was in person squished into one screen at the location where we were broadcasting from. For me, it was a visual culmination of all the hard work that we all put into GVCC and the passion that the entire Gryt Health team puts forth on a daily basis. 

This is a can’t-miss event!

Global Virtual Cancer Conference logo

Regardless of what your experience with cancer is or if you are just wanting to learn ways to prevent it and how to get properly screened for cancer, this is an annual event that you will not want to miss! You especially won’t want to miss it after you’ve attended one! 

Register NOW to join this life-changing event!

If you have attended GVCC in the past, share below in the comments what your favorite session has been or why you look forward to attending each year.

If you’re new to Gryt Health or GVCC, let us know what you hope to see or what questions you have in the comments below.

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