Saturday, December 10, 2011

Boston Advocate Conference

I want to thank Biogen Idec for inviting me to attend the 2011 MS Advocate Conference in Boston, MA.  The conference far exceeded my expectations. 

Thursday morning we woke up at 3:30 a.m. and headed to the airport around 5:00 a.m.  Our flight from Reno left on schedule at 6:00 a.m. and went very smooth.  We had a connecting flight from Denver which was delayed for 1 hour because it was snowing and the plane had to be de-iced.  We arrived in Boston an hour later than expected but there was a driver there to meet us at the airport as expected.  As a matter of fact there were 5 other people on the same flight that were headed to the same conference. 
A nice couple from Denver was actually across the aisle from us on the plane but we didn't know their destination until we were picked up at the airport together.  There was also a woman from Sacramento that I had previously met via e-mail.  I knew she would be at the conference but we didn't realize we were on the same flight.


We checked into the Boston Renaissance Waterfront Hotel.  Our room was on the 18th floor and we had an amazing view of the city and the sea.  After calling our family to let them know we made it, we freshened up and headed to the welcome dinner and registration. 

Dinner was served buffet style and there was also an open bar with red or white wine and several types of beer.  We mingled with a lot of different people from all over the country.  There were people from Kentucky, San Francisco, Oklahoma, etc...   Some were accompanied by their spouses and or caregivers and others were alone.  We were introduced to the Biogen Idec staff, those responsible for coordinating the conference and they did a fantastic job.  I'd say we were well taken care of.

After dinner we headed to our room to turn in for the night.  We were pretty exhausted since we had already been up since 3 a.m. (pacific time) and with the time difference, we lost 3 hours.  Besides that, the next day was set to begin with breakfast at 7:00 and the first session at 8:00.  I spent most of the night watching the news reports about how bad the wind was on the west coast.  The wind was reported to be pretty strong in Reno so we called the family to make sure they were all ok.  Everyone was fine.  My Mother and Grandma were getting ready to take the girls to see a movie so we said our good nights.  You know what they say, "What happens with Grandma stays with Grandma."   

The following morning, the alarm went off at 6:30 and it was so hard to get up.  I felt like I had just went to sleep.  Ugh!!  I didn't make it down for breakfast until 7:45.  I had just enough time to grab a quick bite before a musical bell began to ring.  There was a man walking around with something that looked like a xylophone made out of steel to signal the end of breakfast and time to head to the first general session.  I would say there were about 125 advocates.  The session started with a briefing from the CEO of Biogen Idec.  That was followed by information regarding advocate related expectations and guidelines.  Afterwards we broke out into smaller groups for a session on Health Care Reform and how it relates to the MS community.  There were 2 Wellness Workshop's on nutrition or relaxation.  We attended the one on nutrition where we learned how to make 2 healthy snacks.  They even gave us some cool aprons to take home.  We returned to our room to find a gift.  It was an ipod docking station and a picture frame.  Totally unexpected and very much appreciated.  I'm going to re gift the docking station and give it to the girls for Christmas.  Yes, I am a proud re-gifter.  As long as I don't give it back to the giver, I'm doing good.

Later that evening we had dinner and cocktails (wine again).  The food was amazing.  This pine nut and bleu cheese salad was really tasty.   For the main course I had Salmon w/white beans and a creamy sauce.  Paul had braised pork, yummy!  For dessert we were served the best bread pudding I ever had.  Paul doesn't like bread pudding but this one was truly gourmet and we both ate every drop.  The cooks for this event were wonderful and everything they served was great from breakfast, lunch dinner and dessert.  I know we gained at least 5 pounds.  Lord knows I could use it.

I'm tired of playing nice with
my relapsing MS

MS is NOT for the WEAK

During dinner there was a photo booth set up where we could take individual pictures.  Check us out.  This is an example of the new Tysabri brochures.  Hopefully they will choose our pics to be the face of the fight against MS.

The following and final day, we had training on how to be an effective speaker.  I learned to view public speaking as public thinking.  When I lose focus or find myself searching for a word or phrase, instead of filling gaps of silence with umm or uhhh, it's ok to pause and  think in front of my audience to help me regain my focus.  I can't wait for my next opportunity to speak and apply what I learned.  Hopefully sooner than later, lest I forget everything I learned.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate the conference a perfect 10 and I'm grateful for the opportunity.