Kindness

Last June I asked a really lovely medical oncologist/researcher friend, Dr. Narjust Duma, if she knew the YouTuber @chubbyemu. I was thinking that my son would really like it if @chubbyemu reached out to him. COVID was turning everyone’s world upside down, and I knew my son was a big fan, so I hoped it might help make his world a little better. Turns out she didn’t know him, but chose to reach out on our behalf anyway, and @chubbyemu said he would be happy to connect with my son. I got all teary when I read her message, and I’m feeling the emotions again as I reflect on it now. So very grateful!

@chubbyemu emailed my son, and my son was thrilled. I was very excited too, and messaged @chubbyemu to thank him. I also mentioned that if he ever needed a lung cancer advocate, he could reach out.

In September, @chubbyemu messaged to ask if I would be willing to share my lung cancer story. A conversation ensued, culminating in this video shoot and release in March. Here is the link for the video on his @HemeReview YouTube channel: Interview with a Stage 4 Lung Cancer Survivor (Jill Hamer-Wilson) .

What an exciting experience that was, especially since we were filming it separately in different countries, and Dr. Bernard was masterminding the production and helping me navigate various technical challenges at a distance!

Naturally, The White Ribbon Project was part of the 25 minute interview, and we were honoured to send Dr. Bernard (aka @chubbyemu) a White Ribbon, with sincere thanks for his support of people affected by lung cancer and The White Ribbon Project.

It’s so important that people affected by lung cancer know that they are not alone, they are loved, they are welcomed, they belong, you are loved, you are not alone. If you or someone you know would like a White Ribbon, please reach out. The White Ribbon Project is about #love and #hope.

It also matters that we recognize The White Ribbon Project is inclusive, including lung cancer doctors, nurses, researchers, fundraisers, administrators, physiotherapists, social workers, technicians, cancer centre CEO’s, media, newly diagnosed, care givers, people who have lost a loved one, survivors, former smokers, current smokers, never smokers, early stage, late stage, surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, pharmacists, cancer centre staff, managers, social workers, respirologists, primary care physicians, health educators, friends, family members, speech-language pathologists, YouTubers, bloggers, and so many more! #inclusive

Thank you, Heidi and Pierre, for making the first Ribbon with love, making this particular Ribbon with love, and sending it with love to Dr. Bernard.

Thank you, Dr. Bernard for supporting The White Ribbon Project, this lung cancer survivor advocate, and so many other people affected by lung cancer. Thank you for raising lung cancer awareness. Thank you for your compassion, generosity, and kindness. Thanks also for the great photo’s! #thewhiteribbonproject

Thank you, Dr. Narjust Duma for choosing to reach out to a stranger to do a great kindness for the son of a lung cancer advocate. Thank you for being a fierce thoracic oncologist, Asst. Prof, researcher and advocate! Thank you for supporting people affected by lung cancer and The White Ribbon Project. We are grateful!

#gratitude #kindness

So much gratitude!

You may already know I had a very rough time healthwise in the Fall of 2020. We added radiation to the targeted therapy drug with hope that this one-two punch would knock out the progression I was facing, but sadly it didn’t do the job. I got pneumonia, suffered more progression, started chemo then got pneumonia again. It was a difficult time, and it became hard to keep up with walking the (large) dog twice a day. I was very weak and tired, could not swallow hardly anything, and had no appetite.

I’m so happy to say that I’m doing much better now. I continue to feel a little better each day, and am very grateful! I haven’t had any further swallowing appointments or procedures, but gradually I’m able to swallow a slightly increasing range of soft foods. The chemo is definitely working to kill the cancer, and it’s not too hard on me.

I seem to have settled into a rhythm each three week chemo cycle, and the side effects seem to be getting more manageable. Every three weeks I have about five rough days, when I feel extremely tired and experience side effects like nausea, general unwellness and a rash.

We are given a prescription for pills to counteract the nausea, to be taken as needed. I’ve used them a few times, but generally find that the anti-seasickness bracelets (that I also used to reduce morning sickness during my pregnancies) take the edge off enough for me to manage. Combine that with eating frequent small meals, and I feel quite well. The nausea only hits for a few days out of a three week cycle.

I’ve worked at being proactive, preparing for the phases of the cycle as best as I can. I take steroids for three days around the day when I get chemo, to help keep my body from reacting too strongly to the chemo. The rough days are largely a reaction to stopping the steroids. I make sure to plan to eat well and keep hydrated. I prepare foods in advance that will entice me to eat when I’m struggling from loss of appetite. I greatly reduce my expectations about what I’ll be able to accomplish those days, though I do find light exercise and phone calls with friends energizing.

I’ve been using aloe vera to help with the rash, and last cycle I applied it preemptively, before I had any rash symptoms, and did not get much of a rash at all! My skin was only a little pink, and not hardly itchy! Now the nerd in me is thinking we should do research on this, dividing patients into randomized trial groups to see if it was the aloe vera that worked, or merely gradual lessening of side effects, which is common as the body adjusts to a new treatment. I’m so curious, but I don’t want to experience the itchy rash again so I plan to apply it preemptively again next time!

We’ve been the recipients of so much generosity and kindness. What a difference that makes! Thank you so much to all who have brought or sent flowers, food, masks, food, prayers, food, lovely cards, kind thoughts and words, or food. We have been strengthened and uplifted with the love and support of so many. Thank you! So much gratitude!

I’ve also had the great gift of getting several sheets of exercises from two different oncology physiotherapists to help improve breathing and some trouble with my neck / shoulder region. I’m grateful to be seeing some improvement. It’s hard to know how much is the multiple sheets of exercises that I do every day, and how much is the cancer mercifully shrinking away. Either way, so very grateful.

I’ve been very busy with lung cancer advocacy, like the ongoing work as patient representative for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group Lung Site, 3CTN, The Ottawa Hospital, International Lung Cancer Foundation, and new connections with research teams in other cities. There is so much to tell you about how The White Ribbon Project is growing, and how people have stood up to raise awareness and proudly represent in eight Canadian provinces already! So exciting! Also continuing this month I’m part of a team exploring how to accelerate new drug approvals for people with lung cancer, and continuing conversations with a YouTuber who wants to help raise awareness about lung cancer. There is so much important work to do. It takes a team!

I’m so very grateful for lung cancer research that is helping to keep so many lung cancer survivors alive so we can do the things that matter to us.

More research means more survivors.

Research is life.

Research matters.

I really want to make sure you know I’m alive and quite well, doing a little better every day, and oh so very grateful.

Strengths, Stories and Opportunities

Team Draft works hard every day to encourage, uplift and strengthen lung cancer advocates. I have been the beneficiary of that encouragement and advocacy training in various ways since I first heard of Team Draft through this video What’s the Biggest Cancer Killer? made by Team Draft with our friend Keith Singer and the Catch it in Time team. I met Chris in person in 2018.

Team Draft has traveled worldwide to connect with the lung cancer community in cancer centres – over 60 in the first year – as well as meeting people in restaurants, at games, and in people’s homes. It matters to Team Draft to really get to know people and help them develop their strengths. Seeing people in their contexts is the best way to more fully understand their story and better support them. Team Draft works strategically, developing leaders and encouraging everybody.

With COVID Team Draft has quickly pivoted to making the most of opportunities. Thanks to online platforms such as Zoom, they meet regularly with a wide variety of people in many places, right from the comfort of home.

Team Draft values the importance of following best practices, such as researching our audience and tailoring our messages to our listener. Team Draft embraces the power of story and audience-appropriate messaging for advocates: “We have to know our audience and we need to know our ask.”

Through Zoom, Chris has introduced some lung cancer advocates to his friend Dr. Dennis Rebelo, a professor, coach and consultant who has developed an effective method for helping people tell their stories better. It’s called StoryPathing, and as we’ve started down this path it’s helped us more deeply explore the power in our stories. This process has great potential for helping advocates tell our stories better.

Advocacy is about relationships and storytelling. More effective storytelling means more effective advocacy and in this case, that can mean better outcomes for people affected by lung cancer.

I’m pumped about the possibilities!

Thank you, Chris Draft, Team Draft, and Dr. Dennis Rebelo!

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

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

Three More Reasons to Hold onto Hope

In a challenging season, there are opportunities to be seized. When life is hard, there is still good going on. Here are three more reasons to hold onto hope…

3) Canadian Cancer Society/Canadian Institutes of Health Research Cancer Survivorship Team Grants

Last summer Jennifer Wilson, director of research operations for the Canadian Cancer Society, asked me to serve with some awesome review panelists to help decide which survivorship team research projects would receive funding. The $10 million competition, CCS/CIHR Cancer Survivorship Team Grants, had the goal of improving health outcomes for cancer survivors. We anticipated that at least four teams would be funded, but then just before the announcement could be made, COVID-19 struck.

Everything changed.

Prior to COVID-19, this $10M competition would have been the largest investment in cancer survivorship research ever made in Canada at one time.

The recipients were announced this month. During the delay brought on by COVID-19, additional partner funds were secured from the Alberta Cancer Foundation and McMaster University, which enabled SIX grants!!

Jennifer Wilson and team worked hard during a global pandemic to make the largest investment in cancer survivorship research even larger! Way to go team! Here is the announcement

2) Great news! The US FDA approved SEVEN new lung cancer treatments in May 2020 (during COVID-19)!!

Tabrecta – Capmatinib (METex14)

Retevmo – Selpercatinib (RET)

Opdivo – Nivolumab + Yervoy – Ipilimumab

Tecentriq – Atezolizumab (first line)

Alunbrig – Brigatinib (ALK)

Opdivo – Nivolumab + Yervoy – Ipilimumab + chemo

Ramucirumab – Cyramza + erlotinib – Tarceva (EGFRex19 or ex21)

WOW! WOW!! WOW!!!

What tremendous achievement from multiple teams! Time to celebrate!! #ResearchMatters

1) What a feeling!

This is insignificant in comparison, but I am also thankful because I have feeling in my hands this evening.

Neuropathy (nerve damage / dysfunction) is a common side effect from some cancer treatments. My hands have been generally numb or in significant pain (usually burning, stabbing or electrical) for the past six and a half years of survivorship. I try to keep perspective, since these are side effects of drugs that are keeping me alive.

Tonight I was making biscuits, and as I rubbed my hands together to remove bits of dough, I realised that I could feel the palms of my hands. They felt almost normal, and they still do, a few hours later. Happiness and gratitude! So thankful to be alive six and a half years after diagnosis!! My kids were 6, 10 & 12 at diagnosis, and now they are 13, 17 & 19. That means so much! I’m so glad I get to be here with them. So very grateful!

The costs of survivorship are real. New and improved treatment options mean that (in general) people are living longer and better post diagnosis. Survival rates vary significantly, but about two thirds of people will live at least five years after a cancer diagnosis. This means that over one million Canadians are now living with cancer, and that number is expected to rise dramatically in the next twenty years. (Canadian Cancer Society statistics)

Research matters, to improve both quantity and quality of life.

Research brings hope.

Hold onto hope.

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!

Super Fun!

Well, that was the most excitement I’ve had in a long time! I can’t believe I almost won (i.e. almost came top three) the Super Bowl Challenge! Thanks to you, for a while there I was even in SECOND PLACE!!!! I’m getting excited again, just thinking about it!

Thank you for your tremendous support, encouragement, and generous donations! Together we raised a lot of money for lung cancer research and lung cancer survivor support. Together we raised a lot of excitement and encouragement for this lung cancer survivor too! Thank you!

One of the ways you increased my joy was by inviting your friends and family to participate as well. You told people my story, you widened the circle, you grew the team, and that was terrific! It takes a real team effort to compete in the Super Bowl Challenge! Thank you to all of you who are Team Jill, all year long. I can’t thank you enough!

Screen shot taken from https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2019superbowlchallenge

These top three will do a fantastic job representing all of us lung cancer survivors: Patty at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta GA, Jeff & Rhonda at 2019 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL, and Gina at Taste of the NFL in Atlanta GA. They will have opportunities to share their stories with key influencers, and they will have a LOT of fun!

Grand total raised so far is: $32,594 USD, and Patty is holding another big event on January 19th. This is something to celebrate! I’m still hoping to make it to Atlanta, maybe even before Summer – watch this space!

Lung Cancer Advocate (and former NFL player) Chris Draft visiting our family

Chris Draft works with tremendous energy and tenacity to encourage and support the lung cancer community. Team Draft is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer, focusing on Awareness, Early Detection, Treatment, Research and Survivorship. Chris genuinely cares about people, thinks strategically and acts to make a significant difference. Plus, he knows football and enjoys taking people affected by lung cancer out to games, Survivor at Every Stadium.

www.TeamDraft.org – that’s Chris at the upper right

Thank you!! I had a lot of fun participating in the Super Bowl Challenge this year! That was one exciting ride! Thank you for your generosity.

Advice for Christmas

Several weeks ago I was invited to contribute tips for Christmas to a big lung cancer organization’s blog. I thought I’d also post some here in case any of you might find them helpful. They’re not just for people newly diagnosed with lung cancer. 🙂

I was diagnosed on December 12, 2013. I received my second chemo on December 24th. I felt like a deer in the headlights that Christmas. There were so many emotions and pressures. My kids were 6, 10 & 12. I knew it could be my last Christmas. Thankfully, I’m still here five years later.

None of us know how long we’ve got. Cherish every moment! Say the things you know you should say. Seek reconciliation, ask for forgiveness, tell them you love them. Take lots of pictures. Laugh and be silly. Live life while you can. Seize the day!

Some practical tips:

Change your expectations. Cut down your to do list. Say no to some of the events. Schedule in rest times. Actually block out times on your calendar for you to rest! 

Conserve your limited energy for what matters most to you. Let other people do everything else. If anyone offers to do something for you, say yes, even if it’s uncomfortable. Invest your time with the people who are most important to you, and limit time with those who zap your energy.

Practice self care. Bring nutritious food to a potluck and eat it! Taste that decadent treat that looks so delicious! (but if it doesn’t taste as good as it looks, stop after the first bite!) Get fresh air and exercise every opportunity you can.

Savour the moments. Seek out beauty and kindness. Look for things to be thankful for, and give thanks!

Ask for help. 

… and for those of us who are Christians, remember what Christmas is about, that God loves the world enough to give us all this precious gift of Jesus. Focus on that and the rest will fall into place!

Merry Christmas!

(Photo’s from previous years … I haven’t taken any yet this year!)

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!