Advocacy in my DNA

When I was a little girl, my Mom was a neighbourhood activist. She connected with people from all over our neighbourhood and worked to change traffic patterns. My mom worked with a team who mobilized the community with teams and block captains. They fought City Hall and won! Our neighbourhood streets were slated to become arterial thoroughfares, but because people took action, our neighbourhood is now one of the most desirable and most walkable areas in the city.

It seems advocacy is in my DNA!

Advocacy brings me joy. I love connecting with people and doing meaningful work. Advocacy can include amazing things like working with teams of people to decide which international research proposals gets funded (prepping for this tomorrow), or giving input into Canada’s cancer research priorities for the next five years (online meeting tomorrow). It’s important that people affected by lung cancer are represented in these kinds of conversations.

I’m keeping quite busy with my regular lung cancer advocacy work. I have a number of regular meetings and ongoing projects, and there are also frequent additional opportunities to learn, connect, and/or serve in some way.

On Saturday, for example, I worked with someone from an organization I’m connected with to shoot a brief video via zoom for an upcoming conference, participated in a great zoom team meeting for The White Ribbon Project, and had a prep meeting via zoom for a speaking engagement that I was invited to do through my volunteer work with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. I’ll be team speaking with a dedicated cancer advocate and an oncologist about clinical trials at a big online meeting in May.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time connecting with lung cancer advocates from across North America, which I really enjoy. Advocacy is accomplished through relationships and teamwork, a lesson I learned as a little girl from my Mom and have seen repeated over and over again. I am grateful to get to know so many amazing people! This is one of the silver linings of lung cancer.

Advocacy work lights my fire!

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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.

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.