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.

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.

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

9 & 10 Ladies dancing & Lords a-leaping

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Cheers to the clinical trials teams, oncologists, surgeons, clerks, cleaners, administrators, managers, volunteers, leaders, and everyone who is glue to hold it together and/or oil to keep things running smoothly. #Team matters so much! The work you do matters and we see you leaping and dancing and rushing around to do it well.

Clinical trial protocols are complicated and they can change, updates occur, and so many important details to track. Machinery must be working properly, instruments calibrated, supplies stocked, and so much more behind-the-scenes that we patients don’t notice. Thank you!

The work you do matters and our lives depend on you. Thank you #team!

We may not say it much, but we are grateful for you and the good work you do. Thank you! Extra thank you’s to those of you who are working during important family times this holiday season. Cheers to you!

An extra big thank you to all of you who put in extra work as our Ottawa Hospital made the EPIC switch to electronic records. May 2020 be better!

Extra thank you’s to Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price, Medical Oncologist who goes the extra mile, gets glowing reviews from patients, is President of Lung Cancer Canada, and ran the marathon in May for people affected by lung cancer. Every movement needs strong leadership. Thank you for generously giving your self and your leadership skills to lung cancer.

It’s not too late to give to lung cancer clinical trials. Please give in honour of our #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 #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

5 Gold Rings Pillars of Lung Cancer

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

What do you think of when you think of lung cancer?

Before I was diagnosed, I did not know much beyond the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

For decades, an enormous anti-smoking, lung cancer prevention campaign has been waged. Huge amounts of energy and funding have been invested, but prevention alone is not enough. In spite of prevention efforts, the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 29,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019. That’s the size of a town. 

A town-full of people diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

Clearly a prevention campaign is not enough.

Candid conversations which evaluate the past and examine the present shine light on paths into the future.

It’s time for lung cancer to shift to a well-rounded campaign which dedicates appropriate resourcing to five pillars of lung cancer:

Awareness, Early Detection, Treatment, Research and Survivorship.

When we allocate funding appropriately, we will drive change in lung cancer survivorship.

A town full of people each year! Who will get lung cancer next year?

Anyone can get lung cancer.

The research we fund today might extend your life.

#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 

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

4 Calling Birds Sharing Stories

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Here’s to all those who bravely share themselves, who share their stories. It can be hard to be vulnerable, to open up and reveal your authentic self, to share difficult details, engage in courageous conversations. It can be hard to go public with your story. Stories matter. Sharing stories shifts culture, drives change, changes the face of lung cancer. Here’s to all who brave those challenges who share their own stories.

Here’s to all who share lung cancer stories, hospital communications teams, writers, photographers, videographers, sound technicians, cancer centre public relations people, reporters, and all kinds of media and behind the scenes folks. Cheers to all those who are supportive and work hard to tell our stories well. Thank you for helping get our stories out, for they are important and need to be heard. You are changing the face of lung cancer, and we are grateful.

Here’s to Lizzie and Kayla, two brave young women who changed the face of lung cancer through sharing themselves, their stories, and fundraising. They knew the importance of sharing their story and the importance of raising funds for research. They were also both lovely people, kind and encouraging, loving and inspiring, deeply missed. What an honour to have known them.

Cheers to all those who join online lung cancer communities, who authentically contribute and genuinely care. That is another kind of brave and important story sharing! Online communities are powerful for support and information, and also fundraising.

I’m involved in several online groups, including one international ALK+ group. ALK is a rare kind of lung cancer. This group has almost 2000 members, and held its second annual summit this past August in Atlanta. Thanks to a generous family, I was able to go and meet some of my ALK family in person, and what a celebration that was! This group is so supportive and encouraging, and tremendously knowledgable. We heard from world leading oncologists at the summit, because this group highly values research. We know our lives may depend on being informed so we can gain access to clinical trials and latest treatment options. We know very well that research is life, and we fundraise for research into our particular kind of lung cancer (as do people with other kinds of cancers). The ALK+ group raised $500,000 USD last month alone, and this month they have secured matching grants up to $200,000 USD.

Research matters. People matter. More research means more survivors. Money = research = life.

Here’s to all who bravely share lung cancer stories! Here’s to all who tell them so well. Thank you. Stories matter.

Thank you for giving generously, for supporting lung cancer research, for opening pathways for more people to live longer and better!

To celebrate stories and 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 #Hope #Care #Team #Support #SilverLinings #Stories #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