LUNGevity created a memorable weekend for lung cancer survivors, filled with great food, friends, and fun.
Imagine a room filled with 150 people who have lung cancer, many of whom are stage 4. Do you envision wheelchairs and oxygen tanks? Frailty and sadness? Then, my friend, you clearly did not attend the 5th Annual LUNGevity HOPE Summit in Washington DC this past weekend.
Every year, the LUNGevity Foundation hosts a weekend-long conference for lung cancer survivors and caregivers (you are a "survivor" the day you are diagnosed with cancer). In its first year, 17 survivors attended. This year, that number was 150. The weekend began with a welcome reception Friday night, where I finally got to meet the people who have become my online support community over the past two years. Saturday and Sunday consisted of sessions on topics of interest to people in the lung cancer community — nutrition, surgery, clinical trials, advocacy, and more. Saturday night's dinner was at a lovely outdoor restaurant called the Old Angler's Inn, which provided delicious food and drink as well as live music. We certainly felt pampered! I am very grateful to have received one of the travel grants that LUNGevity provides to help offset the travel and lodging fees. Without this, many of those in attendance would not have been able to come.
Here are my top three highlights of the weekend:
Chris Draft is a former NFL player who lost his young wife Keasha to lung cancer in 2011. Chris and Keasha founded Team Draft, an organization dedicated to changing the face of lung cancer. Not only is Chris a dynamic and inspiring speaker, but he clearly knows his stuff when it comes to the latest developments in lung cancer research. Thank you, Chris, for all you and your foundation are doing to help those of us living with lung cancer.
John Poirier, PhD
"JT" is an assistant professor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is one of the researchers on the front lines of making change for the lung cancer community. His passion and dedication to this work comes through clearly in how he speaks about it. In addition to discussing the specific developments that are happening in targeted therapies and immunotherapy, he noted how the rate of change in research has ramped up significantly, with new discoveries coming out at a pace never before seen in lung cancer research. This information explosion provides enormous hope for us.
Without question, the best part of the weekend for me was meeting all of the survivors and their caregivers. Talking with these people, I felt like I was seeing old friends that I had known all my life. In the terrifying early days following my diagnosis, reading the blogs of other people living with lung cancer provided a lifeline that helped me find my way through the fear. To finally meet this group of people in person was both wonderful and surreal. It was luxurious to be able to sit and chat over a meal, and learn even more about these people who had inspired me so much. Click here for a list of their active lung cancer blogs.
Thank you to all the people at LUNGevity who made this weekend happen. I now feel even more connected to the lung cancer community than before. If you are interested in attending a HOPE summit, click here to find out more.
To continue the conversation about hope in lung cancer, join the Lung Cancer Social Media (LCSM) tweetchat at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, May 7. For more information about the "Spreading Hope for Lung Cancer" tweetchat, visit this link. I hope to see you there!
Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
Blog: "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer" lil-lytnin.blogspot.com