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.

7 Swans a-swimming – Silver Linings

Lung cancer is hard, but if you’re open you can meet some outstanding people that you wouldn’t have otherwise. There is grief, to be sure, but it is paired with the good gift and honour of knowing amazing people, the graceful swans or “silver linings of lung cancer”. So grateful! Research is helping more of us live longer. Please donate so more awesome people can live longer!

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

Why I work hard as a lung cancer advocate:

Six years and seven weeks ago, like many other parents of young children in the schoolyard that year, I had a cold with a cough which persisted.

Six years ago I was constantly coughing, and beginning to realize that the inhaler the doctor prescribed wasn’t working. I coughed so much I had to step down from the choir I had been rehearsing with to sing Messiah. 

Six years ago we had started to suspect something was terribly wrong. I could hardly speak a sentence without coughing. When faced with a flight of stairs, I wondered if I could climb them. 

We knew something was wrong, but had no idea it could be lung cancer. I started undergoing a myriad of tests, and when we finally got my diagnosis that December, it seemed impossible. When I learned I had advanced lung cancer I had no hope.

I did not know what to expect, but I never expected this: that six years later I am living life!

I had no idea I would still be alive six years later, never imagined I could be this alive and vibrant.

I never dreamed I would live this long. 

Shortly after my diagnosis I read the research on Crizotinib, the first new targeted therapy pill my oncologist mentioned. I rejoiced that so many of the people on Crizotinib were still alive six months later. Six months seemed like such a long time, such a lot of opportunity to live, such a great gift for someone with lung cancer…  and here I am, six years later.

Six years: chemo, Crizotinib, Clinical Trial: Ceritinib, Alectinib, Lorlatinib. Cutting edge new research keeping me alive these years. Every time the cancer outsmarted a med, a new treatment has been available – typically just in the nick of time – so very grateful! Research is giving me so many days to celebrate, gifts of countless moments, memories, milestones.

My children were 6, 10 and 12 when I was diagnosed. They have had a Mom right with them as they’ve grown these six years. My daughter is now 12, my sons 16 and 18. My oldest started University this Fall (Electrical Engineering and Physics, still living at home!). I’m still in the picture. I still get to talk with them, cook for them, hug them, encourage them, love them.

“Grateful” is only the beginning of how immensely thankful I am to be alive and living so well six years later. I thank God for lung cancer research and the difference it makes. 

#ResearchMatters 

Celebrating Life!

What a lovely Easter! If you follow me on facebook, you may have seen that I had beautiful times with church family and good friends on Sunday. Today I enjoyed a fun walk with my daughter in the morning, then my middle son tuned up my bike and we went cycling together – not super fast nor far, but I enjoyed the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. We went about 7km, which is a little over 4 miles, and it felt good to be out, moving this body and spending time with my son! This evening I let my oldest help with the taxes! 🙂

It was really good to celebrate the resurrection by being with people who I love and who love me, and being active in the beautiful spring weather! So much to be thankful for! So much joy! I can’t tell you how thankful we are for these meds which are holding back the cancer. We hope they will work for a long time!

#MoreResearchMoreSurvivors #ChooseHOPE

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!