Noting the unusual

Back in June after a day of fierce gardening, I noticed that there was a bit of dirt in my bra and that the skin of my left breast looked a little unusual. I didn’t think much of it, especially since this chemo gives me a rash sometimes, and I take a long time to heal from cuts and skin irritations these days.

After two weeks it hadn’t gotten better. In fact it was a little worse. I know that it is possible to have more than one kind of cancer at a time, and that unusual looking skin could be a sign of breast cancer, so I called my family doctor and got a phone appointment. I then went in for an in person appointment which lead to a mammogram. After the mammogram I was told I’d meet with a surgeon to discuss the possibility of a biopsy.

In September 2021 I had that appointment with the surgeon. It wasn’t until after I was at the appointment in the Cancer Centre that I learned I would have the biopsy that very day. I’m glad I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it! The surgeon was right: this was so much easier than the lung biopsy. Just a steri-strip, and a waterproof bandage that stayed on a week. It healed up very well. I had to wait another week for results. It could have been breast cancer, or lung cancer which had spread, or something else.

I didn’t tell anyone until September, and before publishing this I had only told a handful of people, including my kids. I’m not sure why. I think maybe because there has been so much grief and uncertainty in the world, and I did not want to add to it unnecessarily.

As I’ve reflected on it, I’ve had a growing conviction that it’s important to talk about it. I want to tell you now because early detection matters. It matters that we pay attention, and when we notice something, it matters to go to the doctor. Lung cancer doesn’t usually give the opportunity for an earlier stage diagnosis, but many other cancers have much better odds. We need to pay attention and if we notice something unusual, we need to act on it.

Early detection matters

I’m very happy to say that they didn’t think it was cancer back in September, but they have continued to follow it since there was a possibility that it was a rare disease, but just this past week the surgeon said it seems to be after-effects from the radiation done in October 2020.

Good news! I didn’t realize how much stress I had been carrying about that until I received this news and noticed my body relax. I’m very thankful and want to share that good news with you.

Thank you for journeying with me and for so many uplifting messages. I’m humbled by the ways so many people care, show kindness, pray… many people have said they pray daily for me. It makes a difference. So much appreciation, so humbled … thank you!

Lung Cancer Screening Matters!

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer holds the World Conference on Lung Cancer every year. This beautiful picture was taken at WCLC19 in Barcelona. COVID has not stopped lung cancer research, but due to COVID-19 WCLC20 has been happening this month, virtually rather than in Singapore. I’m going to briefly summarize two key presentations below. (After I tell you about these amazing smiling people below)

#WCLC19 Barcelona

I love looking at these amazing advocates from several continents, gathered in Barcelona in September 2019 to learn and celebrate research. We know that research means life, and lung cancer research is extending many of our lives. Many of us are now taking treatments that did not exist when we were diagnosed. Some of us are holding onto hope for new research to come up with an effective new treatment to help keep us alive before our current treatment stops working.

At the time of that photo, nine of us were on treatment (later stage diagnosis), two diagnosed early stage (had curative treatment), three never diagnosed, and all fourteen fierce lung cancer advocates. I’m grateful that though some of us have gone through very bumpy paths, all are still alive. How happy we are that we were well enough to travel to Barcelona and be physically present together with top researchers in the world, learning the newest potentially life-extending news!

For people affected by lung cancer, research often means the difference between life and death. For those of us who know many people affected by lung cancer, losing people we care about is far too common. Most of us are diagnosed at a later stage with a very poor prognosis. If more people were diagnosed at an earlier stage, way more would live much longer.

Let me get to a quick summary of the research!

First, experts are saying we can double lung cancer survival in four years! Sounds great, and it’s not complicated. We need to educate doctors and implement lung cancer screening programs. Here’s the beginning of the article from IASLC Lung Cancer News. You can read the whole thing at this link: https://www.iaslc.org/iaslc-news/ilcn/improved-screening-uptake-could-help-double-lung-cancer-survival-2025, but the basic summary is that more doctors need to know that lung cancer screening works.

Lung cancer screening works, and more doctors need to know it.

When we test people using low-dose CT scans, way more will be cured. Lung cancer screening has the power to shift the stage when the majority of people tend to be diagnosed from late stage to early stage, which makes a huge difference for survival. In very broad strokes, when we don’t screen, about 3/4 of the people will be diagnosed later stage (with very poor prognosis). When we screen, about 3/4 of the people who are diagnosed will be early stage with a very good chance of living long and not dying of lung cancer.

Lung cancer screening makes sense!

Second, a new study from Taiwan (“TALENT”) shows the importance of lung cancer screening for ALL high risk individuals. Most screening is done for people with a long history of heavy smoking. These researchers from Taiwan did lung cancer screening for people who had never smoked but were at high risk from other things like family history or cooking without ventilation. They found lung cancer in a larger percentage of people than is typically found in a screening study with heavy smokers. This “TALENT” study found lung cancer earlier and people will live much longer because of that.

If you’re interested, you can read the article here: https://www.iaslc.org/iaslc-news/ilcn/lung-cancer-screening-never-smokers-east-asia-catches-very-early-stage-disease.

Screenshot of my Tweet

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Lung cancer screening matters for all people at high risk, not just smokers. Anyone can get lung cancer.

Anyone. People who eat broccoli and blueberries. Triathletes, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, friends. Lawyers, nurses, teachers, receptionists, reporters, pharmaceutical reps, professors, personal trainers, doctors, administrators, health educators, financial experts, engineers, ministers, vice principals, social workers, writers, rocket scientists…

Maybe even you, dear reader.

I definitely don’t want anyone to get lung cancer, but if you’re going to be diagnosed, an early stage diagnosis is a way better diagnosis than a later one.

Lung cancer screening can mean the difference between late or early stage, a poor prognosis or a cure.

Early detection matters! Let’s catch it early!

Lung Cancer Screening matters – for all people at high risk!

Tell your doctor. Tell a politician. Get a white ribbon and tell the world.

Let’s act now!

Awesome Ottawa lung cancer survivor advocates Andrea Redway (lawyer), Kim MacIntosh (nurse) and me.
All diagnosed later stage, all very grateful for life-extending lung cancer research.

5 Gold Rings Pillars of Lung Cancer

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

What do you think of when you think of lung cancer?

Before I was diagnosed, I did not know much beyond the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

For decades, an enormous anti-smoking, lung cancer prevention campaign has been waged. Huge amounts of energy and funding have been invested, but prevention alone is not enough. In spite of prevention efforts, the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 29,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019. That’s the size of a town. 

A town-full of people diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

Clearly a prevention campaign is not enough.

Candid conversations which evaluate the past and examine the present shine light on paths into the future.

It’s time for lung cancer to shift to a well-rounded campaign which dedicates appropriate resourcing to five pillars of lung cancer:

Awareness, Early Detection, Treatment, Research and Survivorship.

When we allocate funding appropriately, we will drive change in lung cancer survivorship.

A town full of people each year! Who will get lung cancer next year?

Anyone can get lung cancer.

The research we fund today might extend your life.

#ResearchMatters

Team Jill:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

OR: Team Jill’s Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts): http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill 

#12Days of giving to #lungcancer #clinicaltrials #Hope #Care #Team #Support #SilverLinings #Stories #Awareness #Early Detection #Treatment #Research #Survivorship #ThankYou