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18-Year Survivor Finds Hope in Lung Cancer Walk & Action Summit

  • May 19 2014

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    18-Year Survivor Finds Hope in Lung Cancer Walk & Action Summit

    I was very excited the day I went to my first Free to Breathe walk.  I had never “owned” the fact that I had survived lung cancer until that day. There were 17 ½ years from my diagnosis to the walk.  That means that I had been in denial for 17 ½ years.  Somehow I lived quietly and in fear, waiting for cancer to return.  But the day of the walk was the day I “came out of the lung cancer closet” and the truth set me free.      

    While I was at the walk, I met many new people.  Some of them had lung cancer, just like me.  Others were there to support their family members or friends.  And others were from Free to Breathe.  Everyone was friendly and I felt happy to be among so many supportive people. 

    Some of the people from Free to Breathe would mention the Summit in our conversations.  They shared it would be an opportunity to not only connect with others who had gone through similar situations, but also to learn how I could take action and create change for lung cancer.

    On my way home from the walk, I talked to my family about what I had heard.  My husband and two sons encouraged me to look into the application.  They were happy because I felt happy.  My family wanted me to move forward and to heal psychologically from a diagnosis that had happened many years ago.

    I waited a few days before looking for the application for the Summit online.  I wanted to see if the freedom/happiness/hope that I felt the day of the walk faded. But my feelings stayed the same.  This had been a turning point for me.  I wanted to be chosen.  I wanted to go to the Advocacy Summit!  So I applied!

    As I applied for the Summit, I also decided that I wanted to volunteer for Free to Breathe. I don’t think of myself as a volunteer type of person.  My favorite Bible verse says that I only need the faith the size of a mustard seed to get to heaven.  I always want to know what the minimal expectations for anything before I decide to get involved. I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

    The reason I mention the above is because I heard a speaker at the Summit say that all I needed to do was take bookmarks with the symptoms of lung cancer on them to places around my home. I thought, “I can do that!” So I did it and I felt successful!

    After that, I assisted another Summit alumni, Teresa, with outreach in the Pittsburgh area.  We met a couple of times and set up a table to let people know about the Free to Breathe.  I enjoyed talking to people-this seemed easy and fun!

    We needed a meeting place to hold the Pittsburgh Free to Breathe meeting.  As a patient at Hillman Cancer Center, I decided to help by contacting as many people as I could at Hillman to ask for a meeting space.  After a few dead-ends, I finally found my way in!  Free to Breathe had a physician on their board who worked at Hillman, so I tried to contact this doctor.  Success! 

    The 2014 Free to Breathe Pittsburgh walk is coming up and I assist in whatever ways that I can.  I work (I teach nursing online) so I do not have a lot of free time, but my volunteer work fits well with my lifestyle.  I am still not comfortable asking for money or donations (but I do it!).   I am always surprised when someone says, “Yes! I will donate”.   I guess I’ve become a volunteer type person after all.

    My experience with Free to Breathe has been personally rewarding.  I feel as if I have grown as a volunteer and as a lung cancer survivor.

    I realize that I should say something altruistic about my biggest takeaway from the Summit, but the truth is this:  I took control of my own feelings related to lung cancer.  I was able to meet other people who had this disease and hear their stories.  This put a lot of my own experiences into perspective.  After the Summit, I decided that the best way to help myself was to try to help others.  The Summit gave me clarity and a plan for how to accomplish this goal.

    I want to support people who find themselves with a lung cancer diagnosis.  I want to lessen their fear.  I want to embody hope.  If I didn’t do anything special (and have a negative attitude about lung cancer in general) and I survived, then maybe that will give someone hope for their own survival. 

    And I didn’t just survive (I thrived!).  My husband and I raised two active boys, went to work, took vacations, had our ups and our downs…in other words, we are living our lives.  I want to show those who are newly diagnosed that all of this is possible.  Hope is very powerful.

    Attending the Summit allowed me to own my diagnosis; learn how to volunteer; make new friends; THRIVE. And it can do the same for you.


    Join April in creating hope for all those diagnosed with lung cancer. Learn more, and apply for the 2014 Lung Cancer Action Summit!    

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