In the Bleak Midwinter

First of all, dear friends, let me remind you that January is radon month, so if you haven’t checked your home for radon, please do it this week-end! Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Please protect yourself and your loved ones by getting a test kit this week-end and using it! You can read more in my previous blog post: How Two Trips to the Basement Could Save Your Life. Thus ends my radon public service announcement! 🙂

You’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to lately, besides hanging out with my boys and walking the dog. The answer is LOTS!

The Ottawa support group is going well: 13 out at our January meeting. We have an awareness day planned at the General next Thursday. Drop by the Cancer Centre and say hello if you’re around!

Our December Ottawa support group party, with a delicious and generously catered meal from Chances R Restaurant

I’m working at collecting and connecting lung cancer patients across the country, so if you know of any, please send them in my direction! Today I was talking with dear folks in Winnipeg. Yesterday it was Calgary. It can be pretty lonely here in Canada, without other lung cancer friends around! That’s why I’m working to find and connect lung cancer patients in various geographic regions across this large land. I hope we will have patient support groups, awareness days and summits across the country!

There aren’t enough hours in the day! I love serving as a catalyst, a creative problem solver! I’m energized by this work, and eager to meet people, gather them together, and help build lung cancer communities.

I joined the Canadian Cancer Trials Group as (volunteer) patient representative, Lung Site, in November. The CCTG develops and conducts clinical trials, and includes all major cancer centres and many community hospitals across the country. This will afford me the opportunity to meet people doing lung cancer research across the country, and that should help with my community building work! As patient representative, I have opportunities to give input into the clinical trial process at many points along the way. Steep learning curve and big responsibility! It’s important that I get to know a wide variety of lung cancer patients so that I can fulfill my obligation to represent us all. I hope to listen and learn a lot in the coming months and hopefully years. I hope to live long enough to fulfill my three year term commitment. Perhaps another clinical trial will help extend my life once again!

I’ve also applied to the Scientist-Survivor program at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting this Spring in Atlanta. What a wonderful opportunity to meet researchers, advocates, oncologists and learn many things about research into all kinds of cancer, then pass my learning along to many others! I should hear any day if I’ve been accepted, and I am eagerly hoping!

Christmas Day 2018

But it’s not all lung cancer around here. Sadly, Jono’s Mum is extremely unwell. Jono and our youngest rushed off to Australia right after Christmas to be with her and the rest of Jono’s family. We wished we all could have gone. They shared many joyous times together in the midst of such sorrow, and have just returned home. We’d be grateful if you could spare a prayer or warm thought for the family as it seems the end is drawing near.

Super Fun!

Well, that was the most excitement I’ve had in a long time! I can’t believe I almost won (i.e. almost came top three) the Super Bowl Challenge! Thanks to you, for a while there I was even in SECOND PLACE!!!! I’m getting excited again, just thinking about it!

Thank you for your tremendous support, encouragement, and generous donations! Together we raised a lot of money for lung cancer research and lung cancer survivor support. Together we raised a lot of excitement and encouragement for this lung cancer survivor too! Thank you!

One of the ways you increased my joy was by inviting your friends and family to participate as well. You told people my story, you widened the circle, you grew the team, and that was terrific! It takes a real team effort to compete in the Super Bowl Challenge! Thank you to all of you who are Team Jill, all year long. I can’t thank you enough!

Screen shot taken from https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2019superbowlchallenge

These top three will do a fantastic job representing all of us lung cancer survivors: Patty at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta GA, Jeff & Rhonda at 2019 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL, and Gina at Taste of the NFL in Atlanta GA. They will have opportunities to share their stories with key influencers, and they will have a LOT of fun!

Grand total raised so far is: $32,594 USD, and Patty is holding another big event on January 19th. This is something to celebrate! I’m still hoping to make it to Atlanta, maybe even before Summer – watch this space!

Lung Cancer Advocate (and former NFL player) Chris Draft visiting our family

Chris Draft works with tremendous energy and tenacity to encourage and support the lung cancer community. Team Draft is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer, focusing on Awareness, Early Detection, Treatment, Research and Survivorship. Chris genuinely cares about people, thinks strategically and acts to make a significant difference. Plus, he knows football and enjoys taking people affected by lung cancer out to games, Survivor at Every Stadium.

www.TeamDraft.org – that’s Chris at the upper right

Thank you!! I had a lot of fun participating in the Super Bowl Challenge this year! That was one exciting ride! Thank you for your generosity.

A Dog’s Life is Filled with Hope!

I’ve never been much of a dog person, but my daughter sure is. She loves dogs. She’s on her fourth “Dog Calendar” now – you know, the kind where there’s a new picture for each day of the year, and for my daughter, each doggie picture is cuter than the one before.

A little over a year ago, our family decided to adopt a rescue dog. We went in thinking we knew what we wanted (medium size, preferably black or mostly black). We chose Colo, even though he wasn’t exactly what we’d planned for (he’s white and the size of a small house horse). It’s hard to explain how it happened, but we love this dog, and we brought him home.

Somehow this dog keeps digging his way deeper and deeper into my heart. I’ve learned to scratch his ears in just the right places, and I’ve come to understand that this dog is filled with hope.

When I reach for my shoes, he’s hoping for a walk. When he hears a crinkly sound, he’s hoping for a treat.

Tonight I was making chocolate chip cookies, and the dog plonked himself down on the floor at my feet, looking at me with those gorgeous brown eyes, expectantly, waiting, looking up, hoping, anticipating, at the ready, just in case some small bit of batter might happen to fly out of the bowl.

Which (he should know by now) was not likely! And even if some small bit of chocolate chip batter did dare take the plunge toward the eager dog lying in wait below … how could he imagine that I would not, with my lightening-fast ninja-like reflexes, intercept it long before he had even the remotest chance? This dog lives in hope!

He knows that I am not some clumsy cook who would carelessly cast off delectable delights, especially not ones containing compounds dangerous to dogs. Yet he hopes!

Why shouldn’t he hope? Why shouldn’t we? After all, here I am alive and baking cookies five years after a terrible diagnosis. Why shouldn’t we live a life filled with hope?

Especially when the baker is holding out a spoon, filled with good cookie batter, just waiting for you! Hope!

Wouldn’t it be Super!

The Super Bowl Challenge started on November 1st, and it ends December 31st. It’s not too late to help me win!

I am excited to tell you that, thanks to many of you, I’m currently in third place!!! That means we could actually win a trip of a lifetime! If not to the Super Bowl (1st place), then perhaps to Atlanta, Georgia for Taste of the NFL (3rd place). Second place gets to go to Orlando, Florida for the Pro Bowl. I would love to win by finishing top three! Thank you for bringing this dream within reach!

Please give to lung cancer research at this link BEFORE December 31st: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/jill-hw-love-songs-for-lungs

Waffles for breakfast Christmas morning!

Raising awareness and funds for lung cancer research is really what this challenge is about, and a terrific opportunity to speak to the urgency and importance of lung cancer research at a venue where there is significant media attention. I would be honoured to win the opportunity to be at one of these events, and to represent all lung cancer survivors there!

This is a friendly competition, and we are all lung cancer survivors and caregivers. You can get more information and track the numbers here, if you’re interested: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2019superbowlchallenge

When we embarked on our “Love Songs for Lungs” adventure back at the beginning of November, we chose to restrict ourselves to limited rehearsal, a cheap phone/camera to record the songs, and generally one or two takes. It felt like we were setting off in a leaky old rowboat someone had deserted by the shore. Thirty songs in thirty days is demanding – even for people with good health. I wasn’t sure we would make it through the month! Along the way something surprising happened: a community gathered and joined in with us! Some good friends, some new friends, each bringing their own contributions. A generous freedom to risk and to be vulnerable fueled our journey and blessed us. Some sang or played with us, many encouraged us. Some excitedly checked in daily to see what the new song would be. Many thanked us for inviting them into our living room.

By the end of the month, our little boat had grown into something beautiful, something previously unrecognizable. It grew bigger and more confident, and a whole lot more fun. A small crowd had gathered, and there was a party going on! I was surprised by the extent to which our little project blessed others.

We may have covered too many U2 songs, but they are some of my favourite!

Kellylee Evans nearly knocked me over when she first sang beside me! She has one of the most exquisite voices I’ve heard, and hearing it in my living room was way more amazing than a recording or in concert. She came with a tremendously generous spirit, responding to this fan’s request.

Love Songs for Lungs even made it on the evening news, along with the Lung Cancer Patient & Caregiver Summit which I instigated and helped make happen. Here’s the clip, if you’re interested!: https://app.criticalmention.com/app/#clip/view/6b3b4a55-26ed-4a4a-b0a2-33447453c45f?token=e97ee4c1-be41-4e8c-91cc-ef807289667d

It was hard work, and it was fun work. I enjoyed the challenge of posting a song on YouTube every day during a busy month in which I not only helped pull off Ottawa’s first lung cancer patient summit, but also spoke at a big lung cancer fundraising gala (which raised almost $100,000 for local lung cancer research!), participated in at least four other local cancer events, and heard both of my sons perform at their schools’ music events.

Here’s a link to some pictures from The Ottawa Citizen, to give you an idea of the magnitude of work that Louise Bowles and her team put into An Evening of Hope – that big lung cancer fundraising gala, which raised almost $100,000 for local lung cancer research! https://ottawacitizen.com/sponsored/social-scene/social-scene-sponsored-by-star-motors-of-ottawa-an-evening-of-hope?fbclid=IwAR38cD352FfkFVcU9tWH4zG3k4OWLbgBm-suVrw0U93tht9hUnLZzFD70Js Many of the researchers, nurses, administrators and oncologists from the Ottawa Hospital come to the event every year. Some also volunteer!

Advances in lung cancer research obviously make a tremendous difference for me and many others like me. This new medicine that I’m taking is much better than the ones before. I have more energy and I’m able to function much better. There’s still a long way to go. Right now, I’ve got nerve pain in my arms and hands which is making it almost impossible to type. I hope the next generation of lung cancer fighting drugs overcomes this particular side effect! 🙂 I’m alive and I’m giving thanks and celebrating! I intend to live life to the full as long as I have breath! Thank you for journeying with me!

Please consider making a donation – whether small medium large or gigantic! – to lung cancer research and to help me win the Super Bowl Challenge! https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/jill-hw-love-songs-for-lungs

Advice for Christmas

Several weeks ago I was invited to contribute tips for Christmas to a big lung cancer organization’s blog. I thought I’d also post some here in case any of you might find them helpful. They’re not just for people newly diagnosed with lung cancer. 🙂

I was diagnosed on December 12, 2013. I received my second chemo on December 24th. I felt like a deer in the headlights that Christmas. There were so many emotions and pressures. My kids were 6, 10 & 12. I knew it could be my last Christmas. Thankfully, I’m still here five years later.

None of us know how long we’ve got. Cherish every moment! Say the things you know you should say. Seek reconciliation, ask for forgiveness, tell them you love them. Take lots of pictures. Laugh and be silly. Live life while you can. Seize the day!

Some practical tips:

Change your expectations. Cut down your to do list. Say no to some of the events. Schedule in rest times. Actually block out times on your calendar for you to rest! 

Conserve your limited energy for what matters most to you. Let other people do everything else. If anyone offers to do something for you, say yes, even if it’s uncomfortable. Invest your time with the people who are most important to you, and limit time with those who zap your energy.

Practice self care. Bring nutritious food to a potluck and eat it! Taste that decadent treat that looks so delicious! (but if it doesn’t taste as good as it looks, stop after the first bite!) Get fresh air and exercise every opportunity you can.

Savour the moments. Seek out beauty and kindness. Look for things to be thankful for, and give thanks!

Ask for help. 

… and for those of us who are Christians, remember what Christmas is about, that God loves the world enough to give us all this precious gift of Jesus. Focus on that and the rest will fall into place!

Merry Christmas!

(Photo’s from previous years … I haven’t taken any yet this year!)

The Inappropriate Ask

Celebrating 5 years since my lung cancer diagnosis

Truth is, no one really knows how hard it’s been, these last five years. I don’t like to talk about the hard times. That’s part of my coping strategy. I focus on what’s good, what’s beautiful, what’s true.

When I was first diagnosed, I woke up several times in the night. Chemotherapy or cancer side effects, and perhaps the stress of it all. I would look out the window and note the position of the moon and stars in the sky. Knowing they were still there, still moving as they had been prior to diagnosis, somehow helped, and I would go back to bed, back to sleep.

My faith in God has made a huge difference. I am grateful for the love God has shown me, and given me for other people. Any good you see in me is due to the difference Jesus makes in my life. I don’t talk about my faith much publicly, but I’m always happy to. Ask me about Jesus anytime!

It took a whole huge group of people to help keep me alive five years past diagnosis. I don’t know who they all are: researchers, doctors, scientists, statisticians, fundraisers, donors, nurses, administrators, number crunchers, cleaners, clerks, managers … I don’t even know all the categories of people to list, but I wish I could thank every one of them.

Getting me to five years has definitely been a group effort! During the hard times, even the smallest kindness or encouragement can make a big difference. Even a kind word or a greeting called out across the street! Many of you may not know what a significant difference you’ve made for me. Thank you.

While I was writing my blog yesterday evening, a group of amazing friends came carolling and gift-bearing to our door, in honour of my five year “cancer-versary”. This five year journey has been one of unexpected kindnesses, unexpected grace. I could never write them all down.

So many of you have made a difference for me, for my family these past five years. I am hurting my brain trying to come up with a framework which would help me to include and express all the many kindnesses we have received, tremendously moving and generous gifts which have helped us make it through the terribly difficult times over the past five years.

I simply can’t do it. I can’t list all the people. I can’t even categorize the types of gifts you’ve given us. Not even with the broadest of brush strokes or the vaguest of generalities. There is no way this human can find to thank all you wonderful people in one single blog post. 

I can say that each of you, even with the smallest of kindnesses, each of you who have helped us travel through this valley, have made a significant difference. You, perhaps, may have no idea. Thank you.

Thank you for showing love to this person affected by lung cancer. Thank you for showing love and kindness to my husband and children, also affected by lung cancer.

Not everyone has people like you.

Thank you for making a difference in our lives.

Lung cancer friends at Evening of Hope Lung Cancer Fundraising Gala November 2018

Could I ask just one more thing?

Help me win the Super Bowl Challenge! Whoever raises the most money for lung cancer research gets to go, and it’s not just about watching the game. If I win, I will tell my story to influential people who are in a position to help make a difference for people affected by lung cancer. Plus watch the Super Bowl … in Atlanta … in the Winter!

I would LOVE to win! Please help me!

Please click this link and help me win


https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/jill-hw-love-songs-for-lungs

… Was that inappropriate?

Here are just a few special moments of lung cancer work over the past couple of years…

Please click this link and help me win!


https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/jill-hw-love-songs-for-lungs

(Was that inappropriate?)  Thank you!

Hope!

Hope is an act of defiance.

I choose to act defiantly. I commit rebellion. I am an instigator.

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer by far. The five year survival rate for lung cancer is 17%. 83 people out of 100 will die less than five years after diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with lung cancer 4 years and 364 days ago.

Diagnosed five years ago, less a day. I not only hope to … I plan to wake up tomorrow morning!

Never give up!  Choose defiance. Choose to believe. Act in hope.

If a lung cancer patient can hope, maybe other people can hope too! Join me in hoping. Join the Conspiracy of Hope! Dare to act defiantly.

Hope!

Jill xo