stupid cancer

Tess Blasko Talks About CancerCon 2019

Champagne, Tess, Hannah and Sam

A Letter of Thanks from Tess Blasko

I’d first like to start this letter to say how thankful I am to be able to be apart of the Elephants and Tea herd and how thankful I am to have been able to attend CancerCon [courtesy of the SGAYA Foundation] in Denver this year. I was surrounded by a group of bad asses who have been affected by the demon we all know, Cancer. It truly was a pleasure to travel with you all and to experience this amazing convention once again. I will forever be grateful for everything you guys have done not only for me, but also for many other patients/survivors. Keep doing great things!






A little explanation on CancerCon-

Have you ever felt like you were drowning and trying to come up for breaths of air in a panic of what is happening? Imagine that and even be surrounded by people watching you while you are sinking and just yelling out encouraging words in hope to help you stop drowning. They do not understand the struggle and how hard it is to catch your breath when you suffocating under the pressure of the “water”. I feel this way, yet I am not drowning… I am just living the life of a cancer survivor. I am trying to find my place and trying to get a grasp on this whole life after cancer that I thought was going to be such a simple task. I mean I lived a life without cancer before right? So it should be no problem getting back to that life, correct? Wrong… very wrong.  “You’re healthy” “you’re alive” “don’t dwell on the past”.  It is easy for those around you to express those words if you are struggling, but they truly just do not get it. I am healthy, but I am constantly feeling around my body to find something wrong. I am alive, but I was so close to death. I dwell on the past because it was traumatizing and the future also scares the crap out of me. I am drowning. CancerCon becomes the hand that pulls me up while my lungs are filling up with water and I am fighting to breathe. Before attending CancerCon I have never felt more alive and comfortable in my entire life. Being at CancerCon I am surrounded by badass individuals, like myself, who understand all the emotions that I am feeling. This convention puts into perspective that, if you had/have cancer, you truly are not alone and you have an army of individuals in your corner. CancerCon will forever impact me in the most positive ways and having the opportunity to attend is truly a blessing. 

A Slippery Slope Indeed – Reflections on Survivorship

A Slippery Slope Indeed

by Dan Dean


Dan & Amelia

At this year’s CancerCon in April—a national cancer conference for adolescents andyoung adults—I co-presented with Amelia Baffa and Dr. Jennifer Giesel a talk on the mental health challenges many cancer patients and survivors experience and the ways to treat them—TheSlippery Slope of Survivorship. Both Ameila and Jenn support the adolescent and young adult cancer population at University Hospitals with psychosocial care. Our presentation reminded me of a time early in my survivorship experience, two or three months after treatment ended in 2003.Several well-meaning friends suggested I see a therapist to help make sense of this intense, life-altering experience. In my family, therapy wasn’t necessarily stigmatized, but no one in my family used it before either, aside maybe from consulting our family priest. And so I didn’t really consider it as a tool, unless things got really bad.
I ended up working through all of challenges in survivorship without any kind of professional help. I read tons of books, tried different approaches to living in my new normal, and consulted with close friends and family about how to make sense of things. I did a lot of the heavy lifting in the three years after treatment ended and largely came out okay. But I was fortunate in that my biggest supporters—my mom and brother (and dog Lady)—did as much as they could to support my study in self-care and recovery. Close friends augmented their support and I leaned heavily upon them to get through.
Looking back, I realize that without them, I could have developed depression or PTSD or any number of ailments of the mind. Back then, I didn’t know the terms and what they meant, but I can see how my support systems’ unwavering commitment to my recovery more or less kept me on track and clear of more serious issues.
Not everyone is as lucky as I was. What I learned from Amelia and Jenn is how professional therapy, the way an individual processes cancer, and a support system all work together; my recovery leaned toward the latter two. For other people, that metric can be different; some many not have access to a professional or a support system, left on their own to figure things out.
Now that I am 14 years out from my cancer experience, I recommend the value of professional psychosocial support, even though my path was more solitary and self-guided. There are plenty of opportunities to take the baton a therapist hands off to you and wrestle with those challenges on your own.
The two therapies I wished I had that could have sped along parts of my recovery were 1) diaphragmic breathing and 2) using a thought log. Diaphragmic breathing is a great deep breathing technique that slows the mind down and calms a person’s physiology so they can actually do therapeutic work. Thought logs are a step-by-step way to break down recurrent, unhelpful thought patterns by challenging the assumptions behind them. They’re helpful not just for cancer patients, but anyone dealing with day-to-day life stress. (to download both tools, visit
There’s no exact method a person can use to find their way from the end of treatment and into their new normal. The keys, in my opinion, to make it through are keeping on the path toward the new normal—even though it may take you down many side streets you don’t necessarily want to settle on—and not going at it alone.
I certainly tried many approaches and there were some I discarded early on and others that have stayed with me well beyond those initial weeks and months into survivorship. But as I engaged in an extended time of trial and error with all of those therapies, it was the constant support of my family and close friends that kept me on the path and into the life I enjoy today.


Dan Dean is a 13-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Recognizing that few resources exist geared specifically toward men affected by cancer, Dan founded M Powerment to bring men of all ages together to lead amazing, impactful lives after a cancer diagnosis. A lifelong Cleveland sports fan, Dan also plays basketball, kayaks, hikes, and likes to go trail running.

Dan is also a SGAYA Board Member.

The website for the therapies presented at CancerCon 2017 is

Dan’s professional sites: and

Lou G., Pat T., & Angie

NE Ohio Cancer Warriors and Friends

Here are some photos from this year’s #CANCERCON 2017 event. Many thanks to our donors who support the Steven G AYA Cancer Research Fund. This year you sent six cancer survivors to Stupid Cancer’s CANCERCON conference in Denver! FIGHT! CONQUER!! CURE!!!

Alex & Jennifer A.

Bryan, Kim & Steven

Amelia, Angie, & Jennifer