QUINCY (CBS) — A conference aimed at empowering and educating people affected by cancer will be held in Quincy on Saturday.

The fifth annual Friends of Mel Art of Living – Life Beyond Cancer conference runs from 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. at the Boston Marriott Quincy on Marriott Drive. It will feature 18 cancer expert-led workshops, as well as speakers for survivors and caregivers, according to the Friends of Mel Facebook page.

Pauline Alighieri, executive director of the Friends of Mel Foundation, says she started the nonprofit organization to honor one of her close friends, Mel Simmons.

“Mel was a dear friend of mine. She and I were flight attendants for years,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Laurie Kirby. “Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in 2005.”

The conference will tackle a myriad of challenges, from being a caregiver to navigating employment and health insurance issues.

“We find that most people don’t understand how their health insurance coverage works, and that applies to everyone,” Alighieri says.

Joanna Morales, CEO of the nonprofit Triage Cancer, says many people diagnosed with cancer want to keep busy.

“They feel empowered by working. They enjoy their work,” she says. “Their support system may be found at work, and so we don’t want people to assume that they have to take time off work if they don’t want to.

“For people who do have to take time off from work, there are ways to be able to do that. There are protections under the law. We can give people tips about talking with their employers,” she added.

While some companies are supportive of their employees battling cancer, “that’s not always the case,” Morales said.

“Sometimes it’s because they are making a conscious choice to do that, and sometimes it’s just based on ignorance,” she says. “We spend a lot of time teaching employers about how they’re supposed to handle these situations.”

For more information about the conference, visit the event page.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Laurie Kirby reports


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