HealththeVoices 2023

I had the pleasure of attending this year's HealtheVoices conference, sponsored through Johnson and Johnson. The premise of HealtheVoices is to bring together online health advocates from a wide spectrum of health-related advocacies.

The goal of the conference is for advocates to meet and connect with one another while sharing what they advocate for. This year’s theme was fitting as it was titled “Connecting with Purpose.”

Networking with other advocates

So why are these types of outlets important? Well, it allows vocal advocates to educate others in similar situations when it comes to health challenges. It also provides a safe space to just be.

I had the opportunity to attend my first HealtheVoices in 2019, just months away from the world-felt pandemic that we know as COVID-19.  

Amazing stories were shared, and amazing people were met. Sadly a few that I met in 2019, we lost them in the last few years. New faces were introduced, and new friendships were formed.

Making meaningful connections

I had the pleasure of chatting it up with Chris Draft, an awesome advocate keeping the torch going as he advocates for the lung cancer community in memory of his wife, Keasha. I also met fellow Health Union community contributor Juanita Segura.

I loved seeing faces representing their cause, and in person, it just gave a special meaning. We all get familiar with reading personal stories and sharing experiences, but it is a wonderful touch when there is a chance to meet in person.

The power of advocacy

What is it about? Advocacy is sharing your story, not only sharing your story but developing a transparent relationship with your healthcare team.

We know not everyone is up to sharing certain aspects of their lives when coping and living with lung cancer; However, seeing others on similar journeys opens the door to keep doing and dreaming.  

Lung cancer patient Dave Bjork has shared his amazing story with a podcast in tow. Advocacy makes sharing okay because somewhere out there, one or more stories will resonate with many. Again, many may not want to publicly share, but knowing that advocacy reaches more than that, allowing your voice to be heard by your doctor is the primary step.

Event highlights

Highlights included the Hip Hop Public Health showing us all some moves as we had an H.Y.P.E break to get those bodies ready for a good stretch, with some great moves. Another highlight, as there were so many, was hearing from our keynote speaker about her rare condition with a form of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Jennifer Brea’s story was felt by many. When many patients describe their pain but tests come back undetermined, many suffer in silence, not sure what really is going on. Her story was pivotal for many, as I’m sure many people have experienced this frustration despite the condition.

As I end this here, let me say advocacy and safe spaces to be seen mean a lot to many. It’s always a good opportunity to learn, share, and survive, knowing you’re not alone.

 The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile...when you feel like it

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