I spent the week-end enjoying our ALK+ Family Summit, and learning about the latest in research for our particular kind of rare lung cancer. Don’t let the term “rare” fool you: we had over 700 people register for our summit. I enjoyed the hospitality of Jo-Ann and Craig Smith for the first day: together we watched the Summit in their awesome space and enjoyed great conversation while they served terrific food and drinks.
I opted to participate in the Summit from home on Sunday since I was leading a “Breakout Room”, which meant that I talked about The White Ribbon Project five times in a row, to five different groups of people who came into the breakout room for 20 minutes each session. It was a great was to spend a chunk of the day, interacting with people I knew, meeting people for the first time, and talking about one of my favourite subjects: lung cancer advocacy!
The White Ribbon Project is an inclusive, unbranded, international grassroots movement, changing public perceptions of lung cancer. As I said in my presentations, we are looking for regional ambassadors – champions – who will host Ribbon Builds and distribute Ribbons. If you are interested in learning more about The White Ribbon Project, please check out our new recently launched website. You can also connect with us through email or social media.
I filled the slide deck with pictures of some amazing people who are part of The White Ribbon Project, many of whom are part of our ALK community, some of whom participated in the breakout room today. In case you’re interested, I’ve put copies of most of th slides below. Heidi and Pierre could not be part of the presentation today, but generously pre-recorded a five-minute video which was part of the slide deck, but not included here.
A big thank you to everyone who is in the photo’s and/or took photo’s! Special shout-out to Heidi & Pierre, Chris, Anne, Michelle, Bonnie, Rhonda and Dave – The White Ribbon Project #team.
A quick update to let you know I’m doing well, and I hope you are too. I’m enjoying this beautiful summer, spending some time with friends, doing lots of jobs around the house, and loads of lung cancer advocacy.
Very thankful that the chemo is working. Twelve rounds since November 2020, and I’m feeling well, better every round. So very thankful, and holding onto hope.
If you’re facing chemotherapy and feeling nervous, be assured that chemo today is not like it used to be, not like the movies have portrayed it. Many people never lose their hair, and there are great new drugs to deal with nausea. It’s much more effective now, and much less toxic. Cheers to researchers! #ResearchMatters
Cheers to everyone who has ever gone through chemo, or supported someone going through chemo. #SupportMatters Being on chemo can be a mental / emotional battle as well as a physical one. It makes a real difference to receive kindness and care. We all need support and encouragement.
A big shoutout to my great care team, including the nurse who found a vein on the first poke today. That’s always good! My oncologist is kind, humble, wise, hard-working, and a great oncologist. So much to be thankful for.
Shout outs go to researchers and all who work to make the world a better place for people who are affected by cancer, whether it’s awareness, early detection, biomarker testing, treatment, research, survivorship…
Sending love out to all who care about and support me. It means so much. Thank you.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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
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
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 email@example.com, and also cc me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
Early data indicates that Repotrectinib shows promise for treating people with ROS1 or NTRK lung cancer! Turning Point Therapeutics is working with the US-FDA to modify this clinical trial to potentially accelerate approval times.* We are very excited about this future potential for our friends with ROS1 or NTRK lung cancer!
John has been living with NTRK lung cancer for 6.5 years. Thanks to his oncologist, Bayer, and permission from Health Canada, he has been able to take Larotrectinib (which targets NTRK cancer) for the past 16 months. Data from the phase 1 clinical trial for Larotrectinib (LOXO-101) was presented in 2016, showing that it works well for people with NTRK. In 2019, Larotrectinib (“Vitrakvi”) was approved by Health Canada, and not just for lung cancer. Larotrectinib (“Vitrakvi”) works against NTRK cancer in multiple sites, including colon, melanoma and thyroid. Most importantly for John and those who care about him, Larotrectinib is working well for him. Research matters, and so does access to new treatments.
This may be the first time you’ve heard of NTRK lung cancer. It is one of the more newly talked about kinds of lung cancers. It is only in recent years that we’ve had treatment options for it, and many cancer centres in Canada don’t even test for it yet. I often wonder how many people there are who have NTRK like John, but are not receiving the appropriate treatment because they’ve never been tested for NTRK.
If people who are diagnosed with lung cancer don’t get biomarker testing, then no one knows what specific kind of lung cancer they have. Biomarker testing matters, because if we don’t know which specific kind of lung cancer, they can potentially miss out on years of good quality life. That is unacceptable. 100% biomarker testing matters.
The Super Bowl Challenge is over, but the fundraising continues! It’s not too late to give to support people affected by lung cancer! Please note Team Jill’s new Canadian page 2020 link: http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/teamjill
Going to the Super Bowl is the cherry on top of the real prize which is really about raising money and challenging our communities to stand up for people affected by lung cancer. The Super Bowl Challenge is over but the fundraising is not!
I’m here, alive more than 6 years after diagnosis. The lung cancer is controlled by one pill each day. We’re not ready to call this a chronic disease like diabetes, but for people with a diagnosis like mine, the median survival is 6.8 years. Those 6 years mean a lot. My kids have gone from being 6, 10 and 12 at time of diagnosis, to now being all teenagers. What a privilege, what a gift to be here with them! These 6 years mean a LOT!
Research matters! Research means more people with lung cancer will live longer. It is imperative that research is ongoing, and also that everyone diagnosed with lung cancer in Canada gets access to the best treatments available. That means biomarker testing and faster approval of effective treatments. Clinical trials give people access to new effective treatments.
It’s a shame we weren’t able to raise more money and create more access to treatments. We are continuing to work on opening up pathways: it shouldn’t be so hard to give money for lung cancer research!
Team Jill’s Canadian page has been migrated to its brand new 2020 link! Since that’s ready, Team Jill will be fundraising more actively again until the Feb. 3 deadline!
Once we raise $5000USD, 90% of the total raised will go to Ottawa lung cancer clinical trials. The other 10% will go to Team Draft’s excellent lung cancer initiatives.
Chris Draft gives tremendous support and leadership to lung cancer survivors and advocates around the world. He has made a strategic difference here in Ottawa, connecting with Louise and the Evening of Hope Team, Elizabeth Dessureault and her family, Kayla and Jordan MacWilliam and their community, and many more. We are grateful for him and his wisdom and encouragement.
The pipers are lung cancer fundraisers. Cheers to all who fundraise for lung cancer. Cheers and thank you!
Cheers to all fundraisers in the Super Bowl Challenge! Here are the current Top 5: Team Angie Downs & Fred Hutch Lung Cancer Research Center / Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; Lisa Moran & Lung Cancer Colorado Fund; “Team Hope,” (Christie Malnati, Sandy Shea and Kathy Weber) & International Lung Cancer (ILC) Foundation; Gina Hollenbeck & Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation Memphis; Dy Wakefield & The American Lung Association Charleston SC. Great causes! I urge you to give! I especially want you to support Team Jill, but above all, give to lung cancer, please! Everyone who fundraises is a winner because we are all raising funds for a good cause.
Team Jill is currently in 6th place, but that can change in a hurry! We are coming up to the deadline and it’s not too late to give!
Last year we placed 4th and the top 3 fundraisers were winners. Many of you told me you were watching the donations, ready to give more if it would bump us into top 3, but you didn’t give because your amount wasn’t quite enough.
Please don’t wait for someone else. Please step up now! It takes a #team to tackle lung cancer. We need everyone!
If all of us gave what we could, it might bump us into top 3. Whether or not it does, it would be money given to a good cause. So please give what you can, whether it’s $10, $100, $1000, $10,000 or more. Lung cancer research extends lives!
A clinical trial partly funded by The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation extended my life back in 2015. If not for that clinical trial, my kids probably would have lost their Mom at ages 14, 12 & 8. We are grateful beyond words to everyone who donated to make that clinical trial happen.
We fundraise so that other young kids won’t lose their Mom so young.
We fundraise because research extends lives of even the worst cancer killer by far (lung cancer). Every dollar you give makes a difference.
Every dollar helps. Please give what you can.
It’s not too late to give to lung cancer clinical trials. Please step up and give, #team!