A day in the life of an advocate

Lung cancer advocacy offers a world of opportunity! A variety of sizes and shapes so that everyone who wants to stand up for people affected by lung cancer can find ways to apply best practices to make a difference!

Let me give you a small taste by telling you about my day yesterday, and some of the terrific teams I get to work with …

International Health Advocate Chris Draft called from Atlanta yesterday morning. Great call: inspiring and energising! Team Draft invests in lung cancer advocates: supporting, training, encouraging. Chris is a strategic big picture thinker, always challenging people and organizations to leverage opportunities to do even more good for people affected by lung cancer. #Grateful

Chris Draft (far right) with some of the terrific lung cancer advocates from Australia, the Netherlands, Mexico and Canada at World Conference on Lung Cancer, Barcelona, 2019.

A team from The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre is working on a resource package that will go out (on paper and electronically) to people who are newly diagnosed with lung cancer. This project matters because it helps fill a gap in patient care. We are a diverse team, representing all key groups: administrators, nurses, psychosocial oncology, doctors, and survivors. This diversity is important to ensure that the package will be as effective as possible, and that it will actually get to people. I spent some of yesterday working on the letter from survivors that is part of the package.

My awesome oncologist, Dr. Garth Nicholas, who is part of this team (photo taken before COVID-19)

What happens after lung cancer researchers apply for funding? A team of reviewers invest many hours carefully reading their research proposals, discerning strengths and weaknesses and evaluating, then gathering to discuss which they will recommend to receive funding. I spent time yesterday reading a research proposal as part of a review process.

The Patient Representatives Team of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) met (online) yesterday, so (among other things) I got to hear research updates from some amazing people, and present what’s happening with the lung site. Clinical trials are getting back on track after some things had slowed down due to COVID. Good news! Research matters!

The Canadian Cancer Research Alliance is supporting a project to gather recommendations for cancer research. I applied and was honoured and humbled to join the team. We were each asked to submit our five key Canadian cancer research priorities. What cancer research do you think is most important for the coming years? Yesterday the Ontario team met to discuss the priorities we had submitted, and worked together to discern the most important. Other regional teams will be meeting in days to come, and the rest of the process will unfold. What a tremendous opportunity to together influence Canadian cancer research priorities! Our voices matter.

There is a new CCTG lung cancer research idea that has been worked on and debated about for months. I’m excited about it, and have spoken up for it in CCTG Lung Executive meetings. Yesterday another CCTG patient representative and I agreed to be involved as collaborators on the grant application. Research brings hope!

My day was filled with conversations, emails, messages and more, but before it ended I also decided to participate in research. I filled out the first survey for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group study: CCTG SC27 – The Impact of the COVID-19 on Canadians Living with Cancer. If you would like to learn more about participating in this study, please click here!

There are many opportunities for lung cancer advocacy. We need more people to step up and be part of the team! I enjoy investing a lot of time and energy, but you don’t have to do the same things I do. There are a wide variety of opportunities to make a real difference! We need people with different skill sets to bring their unique abilities and commit whatever amount of time they choose. It’s up to us. Advocacy matters! #Team

photo credit: Chris Draft

Every day I give thanks for terrific teams and advocates, and that I’m well and able to do this work. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or comments. #ResearchMatters #Hope #Gratitude

Clinical Trials, Vaccines and Hope

My hope factor increased today and I hope yours will as well! I got an update today that improved my world! Researchers are working on bringing a whole lot of good our way, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Over a year ago I participated in the American Association for Cancer Research Scientist <–> Survivor Program. Today through Wednesday, the AACR is putting on a Virtual Meeting on COVID-19 and Cancer. I really want to tell you about two virtual sessions I attended today: one about clinical trials, and the other about vaccine development.

I was very excited to hear the clinical trials forum speakers talk about how their clinical trial communities have reacted to world changes brought on by COVID-19. I’ve heard some people express fear that clinical trials might take a back seat to COVID-19, but there’s a lot more good reason for hope and optimism! Speakers in today’s forum described how they had worked creatively to overcome challenges, leverage tools and technologies, while focusing on patient safety and accuracy of data.

This pandemic has shifted the focus of many clinical trials to be more patient-centric. Researchers and doctors are finding that telehealth can work really well, and many tests are being done closer to home, sometimes even at home, thanks to the quick pivoting of regulators and investigators which makes clinical trials work effectively in these different times.

Decentralizing clinical trials improves and expands access. Clinical trials accrual is increasing, as is diversity. Underserved populations are being recruited, getting improved access to clinical trials. This is important good news!

[It’s something we have been working on in Canada, too. 3CTN recently announced two new initiatives to increase access to cancer clinical trials, with nearly $1 million in funding from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Great news! #AccessMatters]

Leaders in clinical trial research are not just reacting quickly to unusual times, they are also taking advantage of what they are learning to reimagine and work for a future with better, faster, simpler and cheaper ways of making innovative new life-extending therapies available to people affected by cancer.

The vaccine development symposium was fascinating, exciting and inspiring! Researchers are working at breakneck speed, crushing previous vaccine development records and producing hopeful results. Researchers made it clear that they are building on earlier work of MERS, SARS and other researchers who laid the framework upon which current work is built. Pandemic preparedness matters. #ResearchMatters

So grateful for front line workers, researchers and all who work to make research happen. Thank you.

www.aacr.org #AACRCOVID #hope

More details about the events below these pictures from the awesome AACR Annual Meeting 2019 #AACR19 …

FORUM 1: REGULATORY AND OPERATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF CANCER CLINICAL TRIAL CHANGES DURING COVID-19
1:05-2:05 P.M.
MODERATOR: KEITH T. FLAHERTY, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

José Baselga, AstraZeneca, Gaithersburg, Maryland
James Doroshow, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
Kristen M. Hege, Bristol-Myers Squibb, San Francisco, California
Paul G. Kluetz, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland
Patricia M. LoRusso, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
Caroline Robert, INSERM U981 (Gustave Roussy), Villejuif, France

SYMPOSIUM 3: COVID-19 VACCINE DEVELOPMENT
2:20-4:20 P.M.

Introduction
E. John Wherry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Rapid SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine development enabled by prototype pathogen preparedness
Kizzmekia S. Corbett, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Bethesda Maryland

Pan-HLA prediction of SARS-CoV-2 epitopes*
Katie M. Campbell, University of California, Los Angeles, California

Sequence-based prediction of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine targets using a mass spectrometry-based bioinformatics predictor identifies immunogenic T cell epitopes*
Asaf Poran, BioNTech US, Cambridge, Massachusetts

A computational approach to identify a possible SARS-CoV-2 vaccine from receptor binding domain peptide sequence on spike glycoproteins*
Majid Al-Zahrani, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Synthetic DNA for EID outbreaks including SARS-CoV2
David Weiner, The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Closing Remarks / Discussion

E. John Wherry

*Short talks from proffered papers

Ottawa to Atlanta

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be heading from Ottawa to Atlanta on Friday for the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. This is a huge conference, with 20,000-30,000 of the top cancer researchers in the world, plus many clinicians and so many others … including me! I’m participating in their “Scientist <–> Survivor Program”, which groups cancer survivor advocates with mentors, both in advocacy and also science. That’s right: we get connected with an expert in cancer advocacy, and also a scientist mentor to help us make the most of this amazing conference! There are so many sessions, but no one can go to them all. I’ve been trying to plan which to attend, and I’m facing scheduling conflicts. So many great options!

I’m thankful they have a conference app to help us figure it all out, because this event is packed with possibilities! If you are curious about what’s happening and who will be presenting, you can browse the sessions and check out abstracts from the comfort of your own home. Here’s a link to investigate the sessions and presentations. Here’s the link to my abstract. And this is the link to donate to the great work that the AACR does, through supporting my 5K walk on Saturday morning.

The app also has maps to help us find places. No getting lost at AACR Annual Meeting 2019! It will even show the path to walk from where one is to where a particular session is taking place. (In case you were wondering, it would take about 15 days to walk from where I am now to the Georgia World Congress Center, home to this preeminent cancer research showcase. I’ll stick to my plan to fly!)

Yes, I am quite excited about this privilege to participate in the AACR Scientist <–> Survivor Program. I feel very honoured that I get to be at the Annual Meeting, and I know I’m representing Canada as well as lung cancer patients, survivors and advocates. I will endeavour to make the most of this opportunity, and I expect I will spend time with exceptional people and learn a lot while I’m there.

I wish I could take all of you with me! Since we can’t all go, I’m going to try to do the next best thing. Here is one of the ways I’m going to step out of my comfort zone while I’m in Atlanta: I’m planning to post videos on YouTube of my time there.

Here’s a link to my first one! I hope you’ll follow my adventure in Atlanta on YouTube!

Choose HOPE! Inspire courage. Incite hope. Foment communities of hope.

#AACR19 #AACRSSP19

AACR Poster

I’m so excited! I worked hard on my poster which I am incredibly honoured to be presenting alongside other advocates and scientists at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Atlanta Georgia on the afternoon of Sunday March 31st, from 1:00 – 5:00 (!), and the print shop has emailed me to say it’s ready to be picked up! I’m very excited, a little nervous, and I really hope it turns out the way I want it to look! 🙂

Have I mentioned lately that HOPE is an act of defiance? Choose HOPE!

Not even a migraine…

No, not even a migraine could stop me, last December, from submitting my application to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting Scientist – Survivor Program, which takes place March 30 – April 3, 2019, in Atlanta Georgia! #AACR19 #AACRSSP19

This program intentionally connects scientists with cancer survivors during this big, exciting international cancer research meeting. It may be difficult for some of you to understand why I would be so terribly keen to go, but trust me! I really, really wanted to go and be part of this amazing opportunity to connect with people, learn things and tell my community about them!

The AACR’s website says their Annual Meeting’s program, “covers the latest discoveries across the spectrum of cancer research … and highlights the work of the best minds in research and medicine from institutions all over the world.”

I’d been trying to work on my application, as the days raced towards the December deadline. Busy days, Lung Cancer Awareness Month activities, end-of-year extra’s, concerts, wrapping up details from the November “Living with Lung Cancer: Ottawa’s 1st Patient-Driven Mini Summit”, kids’ activities, special Christmas events, family travel, etc.

Suddenly I was down to the wire with thoughts swirling in my head, so fast I couldn’t write them down. I had answered most of the questions, only a couple left plus the BIG ONE: an abstract for a scientific type of poster that I would actually make and present if I was accepted into the program. (No pressure!)

What made it worse was that my hands weren’t working well. Nerve pain is a side effect of the new drug I’m on. Writing or typing can be very painful.

A dear friend helped by sitting at a coffee shop with me the evening of the deadline, jotting down my words on paper, helping me to compile my myriad of lung cancer ideas and thoughts into one clear concise “sort-of-scientific-sounding” abstract. When it was time to go home I still didn’t have it, and my headache was growing worse. I started to feel terribly sick …

I’m not going to tell you how physically awful I felt that night as I struggled at the computer to get the words together and inputted to the computer so I could submit my application. But I did it!

And here it is, all official, at this link, or you can read it below.

I am so happy to say that I am incredibly honoured to have been accepted into the program! A lot of people didn’t make it. Only 40 of us did.

As I go to this amazing conference, I’m representing those who weren’t accepted and those who didn’t apply. That’s a big responsibility, and I intend to share the things I will learn with as many people as I can.

You’ll be hearing more in days to come, but for now, I’ve got to go work on that poster! 😀

ADV06 / 6 – Informed, inspired, empowered: The new era of lung cancer patients/survivors in Ottawa, Canada

 March 31, 2019, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM Section 29

Presenter/Authors

Jill Hamer-Wilson. Independent Advocate, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Abstract

This poster will discuss many aspects of Living with Lung Cancer. Jill Hamer Wilson’s mission is to raise up a team of lung cancer advocates whose voice cannot be denied and who will influence for change. Caring until there is a Cure through more research will equal more survivors. Initiatives include monthly support meetings for lung cancer patients, regular online support and communication, monthly outreach tables in the cancer centres, annual lung cancer patient summits, regular encouragement, inspiration and spreading of hope which goes beyond ourselves, beyond lung cancer, which breaks down walls that divide us. Constituencies include local lung cancer patients, and focus locally, but also reach to all affected by any kind of cancer, anywhere in the world. Ottawa’s 1st Patient-Driven Mini Summit took place on November 27, 2018. It provided a terrific stimulus to provoke discussion and networking with peers and leaders of interest. The psoter will also explore the experiences of lung cancer patients at the Ottawa Hospita; the journey from scarcity to abundance and the under resourcing to forming a community of hope and providing of resources for others. Examples of collaboration, such as speaking on panels about bench to bedside research and care, clinical trials, and fundraisers will be outlined along with learning and growth opportunities for lung cancer patients/advocates.

AACR Annual Meeting 
Home Page

The difference lung cancer research makes

Right in this moment, today friends, I have to tell you that I am overflowing with joy and a sense of wonder and well-being. Maybe that sounds a little crazy to you because of the lung cancer, but it’s true.

I am grateful beyond words for so much good in my life. The best is that I am loved, by God, by so many people, including my sweet daughter who makes me little “I love you” notes all the time. She is filled with love and joy, and I cherish her. I am so thankful to be here with her and with you all.

We were made to love and be loved. Love gives us a reason to live. I’m thankful to be alive so I can love, be loved, and make a difference for others.

And I am alive, more than five years after my diagnosis, I am alive! In fact, I feel better than I did a year ago. I keep feeling better and better. I can breathe well, most of the time. I can move my body in ways I haven’t since this whole thing began. Cancer, chemo and meds weakened me, zapped my energy, and made my body stiff and sore. But I’m regaining muscle strength and flexibility, which is such a good gift. For the past five years, I’ve pushed through the pain, telling myself, “Use it or lose it!” I know what it means to push through pain, being a former national athlete and a mom who delivered two of my babies without pain relief. (Did I mention the second one weighed almost 11 pounds?)

I’m feeling better, more able to move, in much less pain, with much more energy, and I am rejoicing! What a difference lung cancer research makes!

This new lung cancer med is doing more than keeping me alive. It’s helping me to live! I give thanks for lung cancer research! Let’s have more of it!

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!