Music Leads to Lung Cancer Awareness

Lung Cancer Heroes®, CURE® Lung Cancer Heroes® 2020 Essay Book, Volume 1,

"Hildy’s creative energy in founding and nurturing Upstage Lung Cancer has made many more people aware of the disease," one man writes.

"I'm going to ask you to do something, and you’re going to say ‘yes.’” So began the phone call from Hildy Grossman, Ph.D., a true lung cancer hero. She wanted help producing a show to raise money for the hospital where she had been treated for lung cancer. Little did she or anyone else realize that this was the beginning of an organization that has been going strong for more than 10 years. Upstage Lung Cancer has helped fund millions of dollars of research for early detection and targeted therapies using music and musical theater.

Upstage Lung Cancer began as a dream 13 years ago when Hildy celebrated her first year free of disease. When she learned about lung cancer’s incidence and prognosis, she set out to change things. Building on her talent as a singer and her previous experience in community theater, she started Upstage Lung Cancer with a few of her closest friends.

The mission is two-fold:

  • Raise funds for further research in early detection and targeted therapies.
  • Raise awareness and understanding of lung cancer.

Her brilliant idea was to use music and musical theater as vehicles to accomplish these aims in a joyous, welcoming and positive way.

So, what does she do? Although she has a professional practice as a psychologist and sings in a professional cabaret group, The Follen Angels, she is so dedicated to volunteering for Upstage Lung Cancer that it is hard to imagine she does anything else!

There is no such thing as a typical day, since she will do just about anything to make Upstage Lung Cancer succeed: soliciting potential donors, from merchants to pharmaceutical firms; recruiting volunteers for activities and events; stuffing goody bags; recruiting board members and hosting board meetings; writing scripts for shows; performing at fundraising shows with other cabaret artists; writing ads for publicity; working with partner organizations to leverage funds; meeting with scientists who are potential grant recipients. It would be easier to list the things she doesn’t do: bookkeeping, accounting and secretarial work. Fortunately, she recognizes her limitations and recruits volunteers to ensure that those essential tasks are performed properly.

Upstage Lung Cancer remains an all-volunteer organization in large part due to Hildy’s personal energy and infectious enthusiasm. Upstage Lung Cancer, in partnership with organizations such as LUNGevity and Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, has donated millions of dollars to research in early detection. Thousands of people have learned more about the disease through Upstage Lung Cancer’s shows and special events.

Hildy’s creative energy in founding and nurturing Upstage Lung Cancer has made many more people aware of the disease. Every house party or cabaret show includes an educational component so that attendees learn more about lung cancer and its terrible toll. Furthermore, many lung cancer survivors and their families benefit directly as others are educated about the disease.

Hildy epitomizes the idea, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She took a diagnosis of lung cancer — a devastating event — and turned it around to create a beautiful organization that celebrates life, bringing joy and hope to survivors. Her own story of buying a pair of cute sandals, slipping on the stairs because they had smooth soles and getting an MRI for the injury, which showed a spot in her lung, led to Upstage Lung Cancer’s motto, “Survival should not be an accident.” She has taken her accidental survival and made that into a mission to help others. Hildy Grossman is a true lung cancer hero.

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