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.)
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.
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.
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.
Please send an email to the Ontario Minister of Health, the Honourable Christine Elliott firstname.lastname@example.org, and also cc me email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com)
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 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.
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!
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.
More details about the events below these pictures from the awesome AACR Annual Meeting 2019 #AACR19 …
FORUM 1: REGULATORY AND OPERATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF CANCER CLINICALTRIAL CHANGES DURING COVID-19
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
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.
This past week has been one of the best of my life! It has been enormously transformational: I will never be the same. What an honour to represent Canada, to represent lung cancer, and to help spread a little bit of the tremendous amount of hope which is available.
I come home a new person with a deeper calling. I have an even bigger love for people affected by lung cancer, a stronger passion to make things better, and an unbendable will to work hard toward that goal.
It was an honour and responsibility to represent Canada and to represent lung cancer patients at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. I worked hard to make you all proud.
Twenty-three thousand people dedicated to fighting cancer gathered in Atlanta, and I wish I could have met them all! Thank you MP Catherine McKenna and your team for the Canada flag pins! I gave out almost 100 Canadian flag pins, and well over 100 business cards, telling our lung cancer story every time. I was honoured by these cancer fighters, and met brilliant leaders in the field, people who cared and listened. They are dedicated to improving outcomes for cancer patients, and research makes a difference! More research means more survivors. I thanked them for their work, and felt honoured when they thanked me for mine.
I have many stories to tell, many photo’s to post, and more video posts to come on YouTube. I have been honoured to bring hope to people affected by lung cancer and other cancers, living in Canada and around the world. It brings me tremendous joy to serve as a channel of hope for the lung cancer community. #ChooseHope! … and keep your eyes open for more
I’m so grateful for all I’ve been privileged to experience this past week. It was an honour to represent, and I will keep working hard for people affected by lung cancer.
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!
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!
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.