The Weekend, The Sens, and Guy Lafleur

People are asking for updates, so it’s good to let you know that though there have been a rough few days, the weekend was a little bit better. It’s hard to believe it’s already Wednesday evening. A busy few days taking care of some important items on the to do list.

Another important health update: our awesome friend and neighbour, Chris, drove us to the Cancer Centre for blood work on Monday. Blood has been successfully drawn and sent off to be tested for some potential new circulating tumour DNA which might lead to a potential precision oncology treatment option. Now we wait. With hope.

Back to the week-end update!

The kids and I have had some very good conversations, and we spent time singing together on Saturday, with the middle child on the guitar. For years, a vocal chord has been paralyzed so it’s been challenging to speak, sing, etc. Lately it’s been gradually improving, and the past few days it’s noticeably better. Very thankful! Singing is nothing like it was before cancer, but it’s very good to have recently gotten back almost an octave and a half. So thankful.

Our wonderful church family brought three meals on Thursday, as they have been doing every chemo cycle for quite some time. For a long time before then, dear friends had been bringing food. We had asked for only one meal each three weeks, but suddenly realized that one meal wasn’t quite enough. That realization coincided with a call from one of the pastors asking if the church team could bring food for us. It made good sense (since our need had increased) to give our friends a break and switch to a bigger team. We are very grateful for the abundant generosity of our community.

Friends have been coming by with bagels, treats, additional meals, additional treats, additional bagels, additional treats, and more. We are blessed and appreciative. Thank you so much!

Here is a big treat from Sunday:

Canadian White Ribbon maker and fellow lung cancer survivor advocate, Lisa Weir came (from London Ontario) to visit us with her daughter Sam today. (Thank you to my first born for taking this picture.) The Weir family has made 400 White Ribbons – with love – as part of The White Ribbon Project. We have so much appreciation for them and others who have worked together as a good, kind, loving team to make and give out ribbons with love across Canada. Lisa has also been a great friend and strong supporter. She and Sam came with armloads of dinner for us. They are very kind and good, supportive friends. #grateful

This past year, Sam brought several armloads of ribbons from London to Ottawa to be distributed with love. She is awesome! Thank you, Sam. Sam is married to Josh Brown who plays for the Ottawa Senators. They are huge supporters of Lisa and others affected by lung cancer. Sam has also brought White Ribbons for the Sens to sign. Some have already been given (with love) to lung cancer survivors. Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price is coming by this week to pick up more to be given out to people diagnosed with lung cancer. #thankful

Ribbons made with love by the Weir family were given to Hockey Legend Guy Lafleur who is a powerful advocate for people affected by lung cancer. The Weir family had sent a bundle of ribbons to Robert and Melina in Montreal so they could give them out with love there. Seeing how Guy Lafleur (who had been diagnosed with lung cancer) was advocating for research motivated our team to get him a White Ribbon to express our appreciation for his good work. Reached out to Dr. Normand Blais at CHUM (we’ve both been part of Canadian Cancer Trials Group Lung Executive). Dr. Blais connected with M. Lafleur’s team and worked to make it happen. Robert and Melina brought White Ribbons to Dr. Blais who took them into the Cancer Centre. Here are the pictures. (Dr. Blais is on the right.)

Many of you know that Canada is a bilingual nation, with 20-25% of Canadians speaking French as their first language, including people pictured above. The White Ribbon Project is an international movement, and right from early days we discussed how important it is to make ribbon labels in local languages, and how we could best do this. The reason language matters is because language is love and The White Ribbon Project highly values love. We really wanted to make ribbon labels in French. We were not able to make it happen in time for this photo shoot above, but at the Ottawa community build in August 2021 we made the first French ribbons, many of which have been given with love. (Since then, Ribbons in other languages have also been made and given with love.) Here are some Ottawa build pictures from August.

Research and Hope

Research makes a world of difference! Research is a reason to hope, and daily there are advances in cancer research.

Patients, survivors and caregivers can speak into the research process, making it better. There is need for people who have cancer experience to participate as research advocates.

I’m glad to finally have my computer back and running, the corrupted hard drive replaced. Not having a computer made life and advocacy much more challenging. Even without it, I’ve been busy with a lot of lung cancer activities, including ongoing research advocacy with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group and the International Lung Cancer Foundation.

If you are a lung cancer survivor advocate who is interested in learning and growing as a research advocate, please consider applying to the (IASLC) International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s “STARS” program, in which I participated as a mentor for six months last year. Such a great learning opportunity! You’ll need a reference and to set aside a few hours to apply. (The AACR Scientist <–> Survivor Program is also excellent, and open to advocates for all cancers.)

I spoke as part of a team to a group of patient advisors at The Ottawa Hospital in January, with the goal of working together to improve cancer clinical trials. They were engaged and inspiring! We are walking in new territory and innovating new pathways. I’m hopeful.

Our monthly lung cancer hope outreach tables at the Cancer Centre continue with good coordinating work from Andrea Redway, with support from The Ottawa Hospital, Lung Cancer Canada and the IASLC. It is clear that the information and conversations make a real difference for survivors who stop by, many are newly diagnosed or in process of being diagnosed, which is one of the most challenging parts of the lung cancer journey. We are privileged to invite them into community, share information and stories, and (perhaps most importantly) listen. It is clear by their facial expressions and body language that they tend to leave much more uplifted and encouraged. We have an amazing team of compassionate and skilled people. From time to time, we talk about the emotional toll it takes on our team. Most agree that it leaves us feeling a little emotional fatigue by the end of the day, but after a bit of rest we are restored. Overall, this work brings so much joy and fulfilment to team members. We get along well and enjoy each others’ company. It’s really good to work together as a team. I’m very grateful for these people and other teammates who invest a day each month.

There are many amazing people doing good work for people affected by lung cancer and other cancers. What a privilege to get to know some of them, and sometimes connect them with each other! It brings me joy to connect people to form strategic partnerships.

It was great to meet Amy Desjardins, Director of the Canadian Cancer Society, Ottawa Region, in person in January, and to learn that their holiday fundraising appeal which used my story has raised over $280,000 for cancer research.

I’m part of several online lung cancer communities, which offer information, empathy and support. I’ve met many hundreds of people around the world through these groups, and it’s exciting to meet in person. When Kim told me that she was coming to Ottawa for the Family Day long week-end, I asked my kids how they felt about having her family over for dinner. They jokingly gave me the “Stranger Danger” talk! They are very supportive of my lung cancer work because we’ve talked about it and they understand how important lung cancer survivor community and advocacy are. They know that it’s up to us to support people and stand up for better outcomes for people with lung cancer. We were very happy to welcome Kim and her family into our home. It was great to spend time together.

I continue to connect with many people affected by lung cancer and spend hours each month listening, encouraging and seeking to inspire hope. It’s an honour. We have the choice to live in hope or fear, so why not choose hope?

Did I mention that my youngest turned 13 recently? That’s right, now all three are teens and life is wonderful! I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be alive and be here with them and for them. I cherish these precious moments, and hope for many more. I dedicate time and effort to advocacy with hope that this will help improve outcomes for others affected by lung cancer, today and in the days to come.