Advocacy matters!

What a great healthcare team! Yesterday afternoon four skilled and caring nurses give great care at my chemo appointment (you can read that blog post here), and yesterday evening my terrific oncologist, Dr. Garth Nicholas of The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, read that blog post and reached out. We exchanged messages so I could ask questions about the pro’s and con’s of ports and PICC lines. I was pretty sure I would go with a port line before messaging with Dr. Nicholas, but it was good to hear his thoughts in addition to the information in the brochures the nurse gave me yesterday afternoon. Even before the conversation he thought I would want the port line because he pays attention and knows me well enough to know.

Yesterday evening Dr. Nicholas submitted the request for a port line, so it’s already (!) in process and I’m very thankful. There are no guarantees since the request needs approval from the appropriate team for the procedure to take place. I’m very grateful to Dr. Nicholas for submitting the request so quickly and advocating for the port line in that request. Health care providers matter. Advocacy matters. Thank you, Dr. Nicholas, for being an advocate.

#urgency #hope #survivorsmatter #advocacymatters #healthcareprovidersmatter #thankyou

Hoping and Cheering for Much More Research

Chemo number 19 down this afternoon! I’ve been getting chemo every three weeks since November 2020 and we are so very thankful I’m still going strong. Nineteen rounds, over a year … this is worth celebrating!

Some people are afraid of chemo and / or very reluctant to take it. Chemo is way easier than it used to be. Everyone is unique and chemo affects everyone uniquely so why not give it a try? I’m finding it’s doable, even after a year, even after eight years of cancer treatments. Every three weeks there are several days when I’m very tired, and there are a few other side effects. This is hard but not too hard with plans in place and a good support team. I started chemo with the hope that there would be a new treatment, a clinical trial ready for me maybe even as soon as last summer. I keep hanging on, hoping for research to come through for me and others like me. More research means more survivors and better survivorship.

So many of us are making the most of the gift of time we are being given, doing our best to live well with lung cancer and/or other kinds of cancer, reach more milestones, make more memories. I work hard at advocacy and supporting people diagnosed with lung cancer and other kinds of cancers because I know it really matters and it makes a difference.

Chemo can bring a mental and / or emotional battle as well as a physical battle. I remember well the very first time I had chemo, back in December 2013, five days after I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I had worked so hard to take good care of my body by living an active life, eating healthy, and using only natural, toxin-free products, and here I was at the cancer centre to have a hole poked in my arm to inject toxic chemotherapy. I cried. I still find this process challenging, but I know it’s worth it because although it brings some harm to my body, it’s kicking cancer to the curb. Every scan this year has been good news that the cancer is stable or slightly smaller. So thankful! Definitely worth it!

After eight years of constant treatments (mostly targeted therapies which are generally much easier on people than chemotherapy is) like so many others I’ve suffered a long list of treatment-related side effects, many of which have lasted through these eight years. Like many other people I have experienced nerve damage, especially to the hands and feet, hearing loss, vision changes, skin problems, digestive issues, changes to nails and hair, and many other things. Survivorship is good and it can bring challenges.

I’m very thankful for over a year of chemotherapy which has helped bring my total up to eight years of stage four cancer survivorship. With so many others affected by lung cancer and other cancers, we hold onto hope for a clinical trial or other form of new treatment that will work for us and keep us going strong for years. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that things can change in the blink of an eye! Having lived in Ottawa Canada most of my life, I’ve seen Winter melt into Spring each year and this helps reinvigorate hope and faith! Yesterday I drove into the Cancer Centre for blood work through such ice and snow that had to use my memory and imagination to figure out where the street lanes were. Today it was mostly melted, the sun was shining and the temperature was a balmy 14 degrees Celcius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) with a beautiful breeze! Such a gorgeous and rare weather experience for December in Ottawa Canada!

I got back home in time to see a lovely friend from church who brought a five-day feast (from her and two other dear souls) for the kids and me, then a few calls and messages from caring, supportive friends. Grateful for many kind friends who make being on chemotherapy so much more doable. It takes a team. We all need support. So much to be thankful for!

Nineteen rounds down and hoping for much more research and many more treatment options for people facing cancer!

Happy One Year Anniversary to The White Ribbon Project … What is your Cancer Center doing for Lung Cancer Awareness Month?

I first met Heidi in a Zoom call organized by Team Draft the summer of 2020. Right away it was easy to see that she is a loving person who genuinely cares about people. A few months later she told us (in a zoom call organized by Team Draft) that she was fed up with her cancer center’s reluctance to promote lung cancer awareness, that she had asked her husband Pierre to make a big white ribbon for their door, and then they started making them for friends and strangers. She generously sent them out to everyone on that call, even me in Canada. I was the only Canadian on that call and, knowing that international shipping can be expensive I didn’t want to ask. Heidi’s love and generosity made my concerns seem ridiculous. She wanted to give ribbons to everyone willing to stand up for lung cancer, to make people feel cared for. Heidi is rare and meeting her was very special.

Those first few ribbons have multiplied into a movement! Hundreds of lung cancer advocates are rising up with their ribbon, taking photo’s and posting on social media, raising lung cancer awareness across the US and Canada, and the Netherlands, the Philippines, Ireland and expanding across Europe in partnership with Lung Cancer Europe, as well as other growing international partnerships. Together we are driving change.

Heidi and Pierre have made 832 ribbons, and also assisted at other builds as they traveled around the US on The White Ribbon Project Tour. Heidi and Pierre have paid for all the ribbons they have made and sent, and all their expenses on the six-week tour. As they travelled around, rather than taking donations, Heidi and Pierre encouraged people to invest in their local community, to form a team, host a build or contribute to one, participate in making ribbons with love and giving them with love. Teams have been forming in many communities, and this is where the action happens!

We are very grateful for teams in Canada like Lisa and Bill Weir who have made 244 ribbons, Alvin and Carolanne Johns who have made 45, the Monds’ team who made 20, and others who are in process of team building.

The Ottawa team held a community build in solidarity with The White Ribbon Project Tour. People contributed their time, talents, supplies, food, drink, even hand sanitizer. In keeping with the inclusivity of The WRP, patients, caregivers, survivors, family, friends, doctors, nurses, administrators, politicians and others were invited. There was much love and laughter at our outdoor venue that hot August afternoon. What a gift to be together, building relationships as well as ribbons, loving and serving our community.

The Ottawa team knows that advocacy is relational work which doesn’t just happen during Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November. We are committed to making people aware and making people feel loved year round. That’s why we set up outreach tables in our cancer centre to welcome people, show them love and give them information. We started annual summits to gather the community and offer learning opportunities. We also gathered a team to put together a welcome package which includes a letter from lung cancer survivors with contact information. This is given out year round, to everyone newly diagnosed. The Ottawa team made a choice to be involved in making people aware, and making sure people know they are loved.

What is your cancer centre doing for Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November? What is the plan for lung cancer every day?

The White Ribbon Project is committed to making sure people affected by lung cancer know they are not alone. Together we are committed to changing the public perception of lung cancer. Together we are driving change. It takes a team of people who decide to take action to get the job done. Let’s work together! 

#TheWhiteRibbonProject #love #hope #inclusive #unbranded #international

www.TheWhiteRibbonProject.org

Seven years – Wow!

Cheers to the researchers, and the whole team who has helped keep this mom of three alive for seven years since a stage four lung cancer diagnosis December 2013!

I’m so grateful to be here! My life is enriched through knowing and spending time with a variety of very special people (whether online, on the phone or in person). I’m blessed with dear friends and meaningful work as a lung cancer survivor advocate. This weekend, two of my fellow lung cancer survivor advocates sisters gave our family this feast to celebrate my seventh “cancerversary”, along with a beautiful card. Thank you, Andrea and Kim! (photo’s of people all taken before COVID).

This seventh year has meant a lot because my youngest turned 13. She was only 6 when I was diagnosed, and she doesn’t have many memories from before then. During these seven years she has grown and matured, and I catch so many glimpses of the amazing young woman she is becoming. Now we’re in this brief, sweet spot where all three are teens. Parenting adolescents isn’t easy, but it’s a privilege and there is so much joy. The oldest is doing well in his second year of Electrical Engineering and Physics at University, and the middle one is currently enjoying a high school co-op placement perfectly suited to him and his love of music and music education. What a gift to walk with them through this season! #ResearchMatters

Here are some photo’s of the kids from the past seven years. We are so grateful for milestones and memories!

We owe a debt of gratitude to the researchers who, through creative brilliance, steadfast discipline and diligent tenacity navigate the twists and turns, false starts and dead ends that form the research pathway from bench to bedside, from idea to effective treatment.

And the whole team of administrators, statisticians, economists, funders, panel members, visionaries, regulators, encouragers, and so very many more very necessary and important team members, Thank you!

Way to go, team! Thank you! Thank you for working to keep me alive these seven years! On behalf of family, friends and communities, THANK YOU!!!

We had no idea I’d still be alive seven years after diagnosis. Please keep working hard with urgency so that I and others like me can live longer and better!

thank you

Four Down, One to Go

Many thanks to all you who have prayed, called, and messaged this week while I’ve been undergoing daily radiation treatments. I’m very grateful for your care and support. Cancer can be hard in many ways, and many of you know firsthand what it is like to be diagnosed or to walk with someone diagnosed with cancer.

We all need support, and this week has powerfully reinforced the difference supportive caring people make for someone facing cancer. Treatments this week have been challenging, and your words and actions have tremendously encouraged and helped. Thank you.

Never doubt the difference you can make for someone.

This is why I’m so passionate about lung cancer support groups. They can make a huge difference! It doesn’t take much to start one up. If you’d like to talk about it, please reach out. Helping get another support group going is definitely something worth investing time and energy in!

Four down and one to go! I’m so grateful I’m not journeying alone.

(All photo’s were taken prior to COVID-19, except the one of our Ottawa lung cancer support group meeting by zoom.)

Partnerships beyond Banff

A team of five cancer advocates are excited to announce that the article we wrote was published today!

A year ago today, Diane Manii and I were travelling to Banff Alberta to participate in an international conference for professionals who support people living with cancer.

My goal was to represent people with lung cancer and introduce myself to as many people as I could, kindly challenging them to do more for people affected by lung cancer.

I brought a pile of Canadian flag pins from the office of Catherine McKenna, my elected official. I’d been to her office for pins quite a few times in recent years, and her staff were always generous with pins and pleased to talk about lung cancer with me. Pins are a great excuse to build relationship, near and far. I gave out quite a few in Banff, while telling my lung cancer story to people and asking lots of questions about them and the situation where they work.

I had great conversations with a wide variety of people, including some that I had met prior to the conference. There are so many skilled and caring people working in the cancer world, but the people at this conference – social workers, physiotherapists, psychologists, and the like – asked me way more questions about my family and my cancer journey than most people typically do. I felt cared for as a person, and that was a good gift.

Many people came to hear Diane and me, when we presented about the Ottawa Lung Cancer Support Group. They listened intently as we spoke and asked thoughtful questions afterwards. I deeply hope that many of them have started up lung cancer support groups in the past year. We certainly challenged them to do so. If you want to start up a support group, it’s not hard and there are lots of people willing to help. Diane was an excellent leader who really got us started well, then left us in the very capable hands of Dr. Sophie Lebel when she retired.

For the first time ever, this conference was “Patients Included”, not only incorporating experiences, but also offering five scholarships for people affected by cancer to participate in the full conference.

These scholarships were earned by: Lorna Larsen (@TeamShan Breast Cancer Awareness for Young Women), Karen Haas (@caringcancermom Childhood Cancer advocate mom), Margaret Ng (Brain cancer survivor and wellness worker), Dr. Vicky Forster (@vickyyyf Childhood cancer survivor, cancer research scientist and science writer), and myself (@JillHW lung cancer survivor advocate). It was great to be able to connect with them all!

Vicky and I met when I was looking for a spot for lunch and noticed an empty seat beside her. It was a treat to meet someone so likeminded and engaging. Like me, she is a real people person and connector. We quickly discovered that we were both going to be in Toronto a few weeks later to serve as patient representatives with the Canadian Cancer Society.

We’re excited to share with you this paper about our experiences attending the conference. It is written by all five advocates, and Vicky Forster gave great leadership to the process, putting her connecting and communicating skills to work. Thank you, Vicky!

Research shows that partnerships lead to better research! Thank you to the International Psychosocial Oncology Society, The Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, Dr. Fiona Schulte and Dr. Linda E. Carlson for strongly supporting patient/survivor advocates.

Thank you all for being #team.

You can read the whole article here.

#IPOS19 #CAPO19.

A pill can turn a life around

I’m alive because I take daily cancer-fighting pills. Would you give 10 minutes to help people live? Please send an email asking for funding for a lung cancer pill. I put the email I sent below for an example, so it’s very fast & easy for you to cut and paste it and make it your own. Details below!

Let me tell you about my friend Patty Watkins. In 2014, Patty was in excellent shape. Her son’s graduation was just around the corner and she was looking forward to it. One day she experienced a burning feeling in her leg, so went in to get it checked. She awoke after surgery to learn that she had lung cancer and only a couple of days to live. “You’ll never take Patty home,” the doctor told her husband. They called their children to come so they could say their goodbyes.

Patty was determined to live long enough to attend her son’s graduation. Biomarker testing revealed that Patty had ROS1, a rare kind of lung cancer which is treatable with a pill called Crizotinib.

That turned Patty’s story completely around! Patty is alive today because she takes daily cancer-fighting pills!

Patty lives every day. She is a powerhouse! Here are some of the things she has done while on Crizotinib…

Patty rode a camel, was baptised in the River Jordan, floated in the Dead Sea, went to Paris (and when her hotel was under siege during the Paris attacks, she crawled to the hotel basement on her belly!), saw her daughter marry, celebrated her & her best friend’s 60th with a White House tour, and walked many 5K’s for lung cancer research!

Patty rappelled down a 20 story building to raise money for research! Way to go, Patty!

All this because she was tested, and treated for ROS1 lung cancer with Crizotinib! Patty Watkins is alive and well today thanks to Crizotinib! She’s also now a grandmother, and loves spending time with her cute grandson!

In many places, doctors don’t test for ROS1 lung cancer, so people are dying not even knowing there are pills they can take to fight their cancer. People don’t always get the opportunity to live like Patty does.

In Canada, some hospitals test for ROS1 and some don’t. Some provinces fund Crizotinib and some don’t. We are working for change!

Right now, I’m asking for your help to get our province (Ontario) to listen and start funding Crizotinib for people who have ROS1 lung cancer. Would you please support this important work through social media, and/or sending an email. Below, for an example, is the email I sent. Feel free to adapt it to suit you. You don’t have to live in Ontario to help, but if you do live in Ontario, please mention where you live, and if you are emailing your MPP, please indicate they are your MPP and include your address.

This is a grass roots movement supported by some people with ROS1 lung cancer (including Christine Wu), other advocates (including MaryAnn Bradley and Andrea Redway), and Lung Cancer Canada. LCC and several oncologists have sent a request letter, the link is in the email below. Together our voices amplify this message, and will help people get cancer-fighting pills to help them live longer and better, like Patty.


Dear Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health,

I am a lung cancer survivor who lives in Ottawa and is treated at The Ottawa Hospital. I would like to request a meeting to discuss the funding of Crizotinib for ROS 1 lung cancer patients and survivors in Ontario. 

I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2013, and I know first hand the difference Crizotinib can make. After chemotherapy, Crizotinib offered much better quality of life along with the freedom to take it at home. Crizotinib kept me alive long enough for other treatments to become available which have kept me alive to experience milestones like my three children all becoming teenagers, and my eldest starting University.

It matters to me that all others who could benefit from Crizotinib be given the opportunity to live longer and better.

Some facts:

  • Crizotinib for ROS 1 received NOC November 2017 
  • It received a positive PCODR recommendation June 7 2019. 
  • The PCPA (pricing) negotiations are complete.  
  • Provinces across the country have started to cover it including BC, SK, QB, NL, NB. 
  • It fits in with provincial pandemic plans (including ONTARIO) to keep patients out of hospital as it is an oral take home medication. 


This drug is vitally needed as a treatment for ROS1 positive lung cancer patients. Here is a link to a letter from Lung Cancer Canada written in June 2020 to Angie Wong, which outlines the case for funding.  To date, there has been no response. 

https://www.lungcancercanada.ca/LungCancerCanada/media/Images/Crizotinib-for-Ros-1-ON-FINAL.pdf


I look forward to hearing from your office and discussing this issue with you.

Warm regards,
Jill 

Jill Hamer-Wilson  BEng, BEd, MTS      

613-325-5695

www.ThroughtheValley.ca

Lung Cancer Survivor Advocate

Canadalung@gmail.com


Please send an email to the Ontario Minister of Health, the Honourable Christine Elliott christine.elliott@pc.ola.org, and also cc me canadalung@gmail.com.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, concerns or comments.

I addressed this email to the Minister of Health, and cc’d in France Gélinas, (NDP Health Critic), John Fraser (Liberal Health Critic), Karen Hughes (Deputy Minister), and Robin Martin (Parliamentary Assistant). I also sent personalised emails to several others, including my own Member of Provincial Parliament. (Email addresses: christine.elliott@pc.ola.org fgelinas-qp@ndp.on.ca karen.hughes@ontario.ca jfraser.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org)

If you live in Ontario, please also email your local MPP and mention your address so they know they represent you. It’s easy to find your MPP:  https://www.ola.org/en/members/current

Please cc me: canadalung@gmail.com

Please also reach out to the Health Minister on social media if you are able.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/celliottability?s=21

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ChristineElliottON/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/celliottability?igshid=157mo9u4heruz

Please tag me, and include #HOPEUNiTES Thank you!

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I am very grateful that you are doing this! I love Patty and others with ROS1 lung cancer, and I very much want all to live longer and better with Crizotinib. Your participation means a great deal.

A pill can turn a life around. Thank you for acting to turn people’s lives around.

World Lung Cancer Day 2020

World Lung Cancer Day is August 1, and this year the focus was on team building for a group of over 30 lung cancer advocates from across North America! Team Draft gathered advocates online to welcome author and inspirational keynote speaker Marques Ogden as he – for the first time – shared his own personal story of losing his grandmother, the matriarch of his family, to lung cancer.

Not everybody is ready to be an advocate after they lose someone they love. We recognise that this can be a very hard thing to do. It takes courage to share one’s story, so it is important that we welcome people and provide a supportive environment that allows them to share their story. We are very grateful to Marques for opening up and telling us his story.

Marques Ogden’s life story is compelling, and he tells it well. After his six season career as an NFL offensive linesman, he navigated the challenging transition to life after football. He started a construction company and grew it to one of the largest in Baltimore Maryland. Marques shared openly about mistakes he made, and the bad company culture he allowed to grow. He went from being a multimillionaire to going bankrupt in a matter of months, then did some significant self reflection before charting a new course and pursuing it with steadfast determination. He is now a key note speaker, executive coach, business leader and author.

Marques has wisdom to share about life, business and teamwork. He shared some important words for lung cancer advocates, and we were taking notes! Lung cancer needs more advocates who work together as a team.

Marques’ words sparked thought and conversations about team building values, culture, communication and perseverance. He challenged us to be intentional every day, and to work together as a unit to reach our goals. Chris Draft also spoke about the importance of team, and how team building needs work, time, relationships, and valuing skills and strengths.

Thank you, Marques, for sharing wisdom, and also your personal lung cancer story. Thank you, Team Draft, for setting up this World Lung Cancer Day celebration and team-building opportunity. Thank you also for this great book which I’m enjoying reading.

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

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.