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

A pill can turn a life around

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.

Some facts:

  • 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. 

https://www.lungcancercanada.ca/LungCancerCanada/media/Images/Crizotinib-for-Ros-1-ON-FINAL.pdf


I look forward to hearing from your office and discussing this issue with you.

Warm regards,
Jill 

Jill Hamer-Wilson  BEng, BEd, MTS      

613-325-5695

www.ThroughtheValley.ca

Lung Cancer Survivor Advocate

Canadalung@gmail.com


Please send an email to the Ontario Minister of Health, the Honourable Christine Elliott christine.elliott@pc.ola.org, and also cc me canadalung@gmail.com.

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: christine.elliott@pc.ola.org fgelinas-qp@ndp.on.ca karen.hughes@ontario.ca jfraser.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org)

If you live in Ontario, please also email your local MPP and mention your address so they know they represent you. It’s easy to find your MPP:  https://www.ola.org/en/members/current

Please cc me: canadalung@gmail.com

Please also reach out to the Health Minister on social media if you are able.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/celliottability?s=21

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ChristineElliottON/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/celliottability?igshid=157mo9u4heruz

Please tag me, and include #HOPEUNiTES Thank you!

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.

Lung cancer research brings real hope!

More good news from lung cancer researchers!

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.

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.

* You can read more here.

#ResearchMatters #AccessMatters #BiomarkerTestingMatters #HopeMatters

Fundraising continues!

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.

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

OR: Team Jill’s 2020 Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts):  http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/teamjill

11 Pipers Piping

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

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!

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 #TeamDraft #ChrisDraft #Please #Give #ThankYou #lcsm

#Anyone can get lung cancer. Please give to life-extending clinical trials today. Thank you.

Day Ten – Thanksgiving

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

HUGE THANK YOU to all who have given so far in our 12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials!!

THANK YOU for giving to lung cancer clinical trials!!! You are making a difference for people now and into the future! It takes a team to tackle lung cancer. Thank you #team!

Your gift will help people living with lung cancer experience longer and better survivorship, and it will contribute to the eradication of lung cancer. That means so much. Thank you.

Huge thank you to Team Draft and Chris Draft for your hard work putting on the Super Bowl Challenge, developing leaders and supporting people affected by lung cancer around the world. You make a real difference. Today marks eight years since Keasha Draft’s passing. Chris, you have put in far more work than we realize and you deserve far more appreciation than we show. THANK YOU.

Sunday the 29th is the last day to give to the Super Bowl Challenge, but we will continue to accept donations for clinical trials into January. I’ll be honest with you. I would LOVE to win the Super Bowl Challenge, earn a trip to Florida in the Winter, the experience of a lifetime and opportunity to share lung cancer’s story with that huge platform … but …

What really matters is that we pull together as a team to tackle lung cancer. What matters is that we rally together for better care for people affected by lung cancer. Clinical trials matter because they actually extend lives.

Anyone can get lung cancer. I am frequently contacted by people shocked and saddened by a diagnosis, whether their own or someone they love. Lung cancer affects almost everyone.

Research is changing the story & saving lives, so we need more research! I have a deep passion for driving change in this field and sadness that so far we have raised less than $1000.

It’s not too late to raise more money for lung cancer research!

It takes a #team to tackle lung cancer. Join us!

Would you please consider giving if you haven’t yet? Would you have family or friends who you might ask to give to this important cause? Please invite them. This is a good year end tax deductible investment. It could extend your own life or the life of someone you love.

It’s not too late to give to lung cancer clinical trials. Please give, #team!

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 #TeamDraft #ChrisDraft #ThankYou #lcsm

6 Geese a-laying – Research

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

What is the connection between geese and lung cancer research? Why did “research” immediately spring to mind for the Sixth Day of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials?

The connection is the goose that laid the golden eggs. That is research. It may not feel like it to some researchers working away in their lab, but it is true!

This is a fabulously exciting time in lung cancer research! New treatments are being approved and people are living longer and better. We are expanding the horizon of the possible.

LUNGevity put out a compelling video last month with stories from people directly affected by lung cancer clinical trials. The link is below. Please take three minutes to watch it. “In the last three years, the FDA has approved more lung cancer treatments than in the last three decades, thanks to clinical trial patients.” The survivor stories are gripping.

I’ve been to just a few of the many conferences where lung cancer research has been presented this year, and it is phenomenal! There is no rush quite like the realization that thousands of brilliant and dedicated people are working hard all over the world to find cures for people affected by cancer.

We are seeing success! The research is working! New treatments for lung cancer are being approved at record rate! People are living longer and better.

We’re not there yet.

Research keeps laying golden eggs. Let’s be generous in our support.

Research works. Research matters. People matter. We need more research.

If you were thinking about giving me a Christmas present this year, or making a tax-deductible end of year donation, please give to lung cancer research here. Thank you.

#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 

Click here to see the video It will open up to another page where you can click on the big picture to watch it. You can also see individual stories if you click on the smaller pictures below. It was an honour to be part of this project, because clinical trials matter. Thank you, Linda, Jack, LUNGevity and the whole team. You did a great job!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2019-11-30-at-4.21.51-pm.png
Click here to see the video

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

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical trials mean life for people with lung cancer. They not only make a difference for people in the future. Clinical trials extend lives right now. Clinical trials matter!

Hope Matters. We all need hope, especially in hard times. Everyone goes through them, and in the midst of the darkness, hope is an act of defiance.

In Spring 2015, my health was bad. After a year and a half of first chemo then targeted therapy, I was weak and concerned that there might not be any more treatment options for me. My kids were 8, 11 and 14.

We were incredibly thankful for the clinical trial that my oncologist told me about. It brought hope, and I eagerly signed up. I wrote about it at the time, and here in An Act of Defiance, where I told the story of asking my family to plant an apple tree for me for my birthday in the Spring of 2015. The pear tree immediately brought to mind this story of hope.

Apple trees take years to bear fruit. Would I live to see it? Only one way to find out! Fast forward to 2019: we have harvested loads of apples and are very thankful I’m alive to enjoy them. Choose hope!

Hope is an act of defiance! When times are tough we can run low on hope. Hope matters. We need to nurture the hope within us, and when running low on hope, ask for help! #HopeMatters

That clinical trial kept me alive for over a year and a half, long enough for new and better treatment options to become available. I’m on my second treatment line since that clinical trial. I’m alive (and so very thankful) today because of grace and that clinical trial.

Research works. It is working to help give more and more people longer and better survivorship! Lung cancer research matters because people matter.

Four and a half years later I am filled with gratitude for that clinical trial and all who funded it, giving me the gift of extra years of life, such important years that I’ve cherished with my family and friends. My kids are now 12, 16 and 18. We’re incredibly grateful for these years.

Four and a half years later I know from the depth of my being that research matters. Four and a half years later I keep shouting from the rooftops: RESEARCH MATTERS!

I’m raising funds this month, posting these 12 days of giving to lung cancer clinical trials. Please give generously: your gift could mean years of life for someone like me, and what a difference that makes for so many!

To celebrate SiX years of lung cancer survivorship, please give generously to lung cancer research!

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 #HopeMatters #appletree #peartree #HopeisanActofDefiance #ChooseHope #Hope

Fundraising for lung cancer research in Canada.

When I sit back and reflect on 2019, it has been an amazing year. I’ve been able to meet so many new people, deepen relationships, and learn many things. The lung cancer community and advocacy work have both grown significantly. There are so many stories to tell and blog posts to write! 

When I look back, I clearly see growth in the numbers of lung cancer survivors who are stepping up and standing together to make a difference for others. This is largely due to the difference that new treatments make for us. Many of us benefit from targeted therapies, pills that we take daily which keep us alive and help us live fairly normal lives. Some benefit from immunotherapy, and the numbers of those who are doing well a year or more off treatment are increasing. Lung cancer research is making a difference. We rejoice and celebrate!

Anyone can get lung cancer. Increasing numbers of younger women are, and we have no idea why. We need more research to extend lives. More about this at the end of this post, and I plan to share some good news very soon.

The Ottawa support group is growing tremendously. The hope outreach tables that Andrea Redway organizes every month continue to make a real difference at the Cancer Centres. We have deepened relationships and built trust within The Ottawa Hospital, so that staff are excited about the tables and promoting them. Andrea, Kim MacIntosh and I gathered a team and entered race weekend as “Lung Cancer Team Canada”, raising money for Lung Cancer Canada (who sponsors our support group and provides patient handbooks to distribute), and showing that we are #LungCancerStrong! There are now two of us who serve as Patient Relations Advisors at The Ottawa Hospital, and I am slated to share my story there next month. I spoke at Grand Rounds with Dr. Terry Ng in June on biomarkers, a real honour and humbling experience. Another big highlight was our Second Annual Living with Lung Cancer Patient-Driven Summit in November, organized by Andrea, Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price, Jody Chaters and me, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, with support from LCC.

Across Canada, the most exciting highlight was the forming of a second lung cancer support group. Alyson is an advocate in Winnipeg who I’d been mentoring for some time, and she was doing great work. Wanting to grow the team, I kept looking for another lung cancer patient/survivor/caregiver in the city, who seemed interested in doing more. I found Christine’s wonderful blog and reached out to her. Together Alyson and Christine started connecting more with their lung cancer community, forming relationships with people at their cancer centre and looking for ways to serve their community. They wanted to start a support group. Our Ottawa Social Worker, Diane Manii, connected us with a social worker in Winnipeg, and the Winnipeg lung cancer support group started in the Spring! Group members stood up and applauded Christine and Alyson because they were so grateful they had started the group, which is flourishing!

Christine is in the middle with her husband, and Kim on the right.

I continue to serve as a patient research advocate, including as the patient representative for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group lung site. This Fall I served on the panel for the Canadian Cancer Society Team Survivorship Grants, and it was an interesting process, giving out $10 Million for cancer research. Sadly, none of it went to lung cancer research. I hope to learn why no lung cancer researchers applied for this grant money and work to drive change for the future.

The Canadian Cancer Survivors Network provided political advocacy opportunities at the local, provincial and national levels, and growing numbers of us took advantage. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment to and support of lung cancer survivors, and that they do very well at smoothing the pathways for us to be more easily involved in political advocacy.

It’s hard to say what my international highlight was for 2019, but I think it was participating as a mentor in the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) inaugural STARS program for training patient research advocates. What an honour that Canada was chosen as one of only five teams, and both of us from The Ottawa Hospital! The six month process of mentoring Kim was enjoyable and rewarding. She has grown and flourished as an advocate. She is more knowledgeable and confident. She is finding her voice and using it in strategic ways. She spoke at our summit, has been tweeting effectively and growing relationships in Ottawa and beyond. It’s a joy to continue the mentoring relationship past the October endpoint of the program.

Part of the STARS program was held at the World Congress of Lung Cancer in Barcelona Spain in September. It was exciting to gather with so many people, all committed to conquering thoracic cancers worldwide! What a good gift to connect with advocates from around the world, united with shared passion. Some of us are exploring an international research project. I gave out many Canadian flag pins, generously supplied by MP Catherine McKenna, and also represented Canada by participating in a series of videos put out last month by Lung Cancer Europe (LUCE), which were filmed while we were in Barcelona.

It was great to gather so many Canadians at LUNGevity’s International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference in Washington DC in April. LUNGevity shot video there which was made into a terrific video about clinical trials and released last month. It was an honour to be included. Through the generosity of a kind family, I was able to attend the ALK+ lung cancer conference in Atlanta in August, and while there I taught on Advocacy.

Social Worker Diane Manii and I presented about our Ottawa support group at the International Psychosocial Oncology Society Conference in Banff AB in September. I was surprised at how little was presented on lung cancer, but I learned a lot and met amazing people. Our presentation was very well received.

Participating in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Scientist <–> Survivor Program at their Annual Meeting in Atlanta in the Spring was a wonderful experience that opened doors. We learned volumes, met tremendous people, were greatly honoured as cancer advocates and came home changed. I am even more committed to lung cancer advocacy, and so very grateful.

I am also very grateful for Chris Draft who is a tremendous mentor to many in the lung cancer community, including me. Around the world, people speak highly of him and the difference he has made for them. He is making a real difference, supporting and encouraging us so that we can do more. His intentional engagement with a wide variety of people, and lengthy NFL experience result in a strong network with many connections who support his work in the lung cancer community. He is also a brilliant strategist who listens, thinks, and is not afraid to say what needs to be said. 

Advocacy is relational work, and requires candid conversations. One thing we often hear is that lung cancer is the deadliest cancer, yet receives very little funding for research. 

I’m a “glass is half full” kind of person who likes to focus on the positive and express a lot of gratitude. Effective advocacy requires an honest assessment of the problem. I’ll be honest with you: I’ve found it hard to speak or write publicly about one of the real problems with lung cancer research funding problems here in Canada.

If I may be open with you, for some time I’ve been aware that one of the big roadblocks to lung cancer research funding is a lack of invitations and obvious ways to donate. There aren’t foundations filled with people trying to raise money for lung cancer research. It’s rare to even find a link on a website to click on. Last year I asked the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation to put a link on their website to receive donations throughout Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and they did, which was wonderful, but it was only there for one month. Through my lung cancer journey, my experience is that it has generally been challenging to find a way to give specifically to lung cancer research.

It’s easy to donate to cancer in general, or to some other specific cancers, but the world’s biggest cancer killer? Very challenging here in Canada. This is a serious problem.

Lung cancer patients and advocates want more life-extending research (including clinical trials); researchers want more money. Lots of people care and are willing to give. I wonder how many have not yet given because no one asked them to give, or because they could not find a straightforward way to give.

If we want people to give to lung cancer research, we need to invite them, and also create clear pathways for them to give. 

I am passionate about this because research is extending the lives of so many people affected by lung cancer, and we need more research! We have been working behind the scenes to help open pathways for giving directly to lung cancer research here in Canada.

Research matters! More research means more survivors. Lung cancer research is cutting edge, exciting, life changing! We need to tell the stories and raise more funds for much needed research so that more people affected by lung cancer will be able to live better and longer.

Today is my six year cancer-versary. Look for exciting news about how we will celebrate!

#ResearchMatters #MoreResearchMoreSurvivors

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