Jan Adrian of Sacramento was first diagnosed with cancer in 1989 and has been living with metastatic breast cancer ever since.
In fact, Adrian has been diagnosed with three types of cancers, has survived numerous recurrences and a barrage of treatments, including 10 surgeries, 39 radiation treatments and a year of daily injections.
Still, Adrian has not been able to let go of the patient-centered conferences called "Cancer as a Turning Point" that she founded as the director of the nonprofit firm Healing Journeys.
"It seemed like every time I felt it was too much work and wanted to back away, I'd get a recurrence," Adrian said. "The universe or something wanted to keep me involved."
About 20,000 people have attended the conferences nationwide. They are known for being inspirational, hopeful and helpful, organizers said.
Cass Capell is the director of the local breast cancer support group called Save Our Selves. She makes it a requirement for those in her groups to attend the conferences. "This is for them – it's full of hope and hugely and personally empowering," Capell said.
In creating the conferences, Adrian said she was moved by research showing that by focusing on what makes them excited and joyful in life, 50 percent of terminal cancer patients studied went into long-term remission.
Since then, more research has indicated that long-term survival correlates with how empowered and involved cancer patients are in their treatment, she said.
"Cancer as a Turning Point," now in its 18th year, will be held at the Scottish Rite Center at 6151 H St. in Sacramento this weekend.
The two-day conference is free and will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The keynote talk will be presented by inspirational speaker and author Marianne Williamson, whose sister died of breast cancer in 1994.
Another speaker will explore the topic of "how to make your body into one that cancer hates" through nutrition, attitude and releasing negative emotions. Other talks will coach patients on how to take greater control of their treatment decisions.
The conference is held in the Sacramento region only once every four years, Adrian said.
Dr. Jonathan Hake, a Sacramento area oncologist who caravans with patients to the conference whenever it's in Northern California, said research shows that one in three Americans will get cancer at some time in their lives.
"The wisdom of the conference is that you fight for your life with love and joy," Hake said. "People who often might feel stigmatized elsewhere come with an open heart and an open mind."
Information about the conference can be found at www.healingjourneys.org.