Combatting an Isolating Disease: An Expert Offers Lung Cancer Resources for Patients, Caregivers

Susan Smedley, national manager of community fundraising and endurance events at GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, offers resources for patients with lung cancer and their loved ones, as well as ways to get involved in the community.

Kristie L. Kahl: Why is it important to get involved in the lung cancer community in general?

Susan Smedley: Well, you know, lung cancer is a pretty isolating disease. And in a lot of cases, people don't know of any other lung cancer patients or survivors in their community, or caregivers. So it's helpful to reach out for support, and know that you're part of a much bigger community.

Kristie L. Kahl: What are ways we can bring this community together?

Susan Smedley: Oh gosh, there's so many different ways. I mean, the first one is supporting people. Through the Go2 Foundation, we do that in a variety of ways. Right now, all virtually, but we have our monthly Living Room, where viewers can be typing in questions and interacting with each other. We also have a monthly gathering where it's literally time for people just to get together like you and I are and see each other and connect that way. We also have a support group network, and virtual online communities as well, which it's just a really great opportunity for people to ask questions of each other and learn from other people's experiences. And you know, some people choose to kind of move on as they're feeling a little bit better, and become a phone buddy, or start to mentor someone who may have just received a diagnosis.

Kristie L. Kahl: If somebody is interested in getting involved, what's the best way for them to learn more?

Susan Smedley: Well, certainly there's opportunities on our website at go2foundation.org. It's literally under the tab that says “Get Involved.” So there's a huge community waiting just to embrace you. You're not alone. We also have a support line that's available. It can be daunting at first, to feel like, “I'm going to reach out to people I don't know.” But certainly what I've found over the years is that our community is so welcoming and gracious. And people really want to be there for you.

Kristie L. Kahl: Can you talk more about the foundation's initiatives to raise more awareness?

Susan Smedley: Certainly through our support services, but we also really look to our community of folks who have received a diagnosis as well as people who are supporters of those loved ones, to help us get the word out, whether it be raising awareness in their own personal community, or speaking to their elected officials and helping us with legislative advocacy.

Lung cancer has been ignored for a really long time. And for so many years, most people who are going through treatment felt too sick and didn't have the energy to sort of speak out and share their story. And, you know, with recent treatment advances, thankfully, that's changing. And we really are welcoming more and more folks who've received a diagnosis to help us raise awareness in their own communities, nationally, and internationally. And certainly, social media is a great place to do that. And we do celebrate Lung Cancer Awareness month. And we have a whole section on our website that has a toolkit for people, where you can download different resources, different suggested messaging, etc. So you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you can just reach out and look at what we offer, and ask questions and ask for more or different resources as you need them.

Kristie L. Kahl: How can others help to raise awareness? And what more can we be doing?

Susan Smedley: Well, you know, anything that you love to do can really be turned into a way to raise awareness. So whether it be you're having a garage sale, you can certainly put out materials around lung cancer. And if you're donating a portion of the proceeds, let people know that and let them know why people can reach out to their local newspapers and write letters to the editor. The month of November is a great time to do that. We encourage patients and their caregivers to encourage their medical facilities to be a part of our Shine Light program. And that is where we provide all of the resources for medical facilities to host an awareness event and just be able to share it online as well, that they're acknowledging that it's Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and providing facts, etc.