Last updated: April 2023
When I was first diagnosed 3 and a half years ago, I swore to myself that I would get involved in advocacy and help raise awareness. I felt that if I was blindsided by this diagnosis, there are so many others out there that have no idea that lung cancer could be a risk for them.
It's hard not to feel defeated and lost
While I appreciate all of the opportunities I’ve been given to help others and advocate, there are times where I feel extremely frustrated, alone, and angry. Mostly because I continue to have friends that I’ve made throughout these past 3 and a half years pass away from lung cancer. It’s hard not to feel beaten down, defeated, and hopeless.
How to hold onto hope
So how do we as advocates, patients, caregivers, hold on to hope when we see so many tragic endings? Can we use this discouragement that we encounter on a daily basis for encouragement? How can we stay empowered, encouraged, and engaged? How can we embrace our discouragement to keep moving forward?
Honor those that we have lost
When a member of the lung cancer community passes away, I’ve learned that I need to take the time to honor them and grieve for their passing. My anger, my despair, my sadness are all feelings that I need to walk through, not avoid. They add fuel to the fire of my desire to change outcomes.
I honor my hopelessness and despair as real, genuine feelings. I let them be a part of my grief. And then I use those feelings and emotions as a reminder of WHY we need to continue to keep on advocating.
Name your feelings
I have a wonderful group of lung cancer friends that I text with every day. When one of us is feeling discouraged or disenfranchised, we reach out to each other and VENT! Research shows that simply naming your emotions and stressors actually reduces your anxiety! Having a friend or group of friends that can relate to your experiences is so extremely helpful, either through an organized support group or your own group of friends!
Make short term goals
If I think about lung cancer and all that needs to be done to improve outcomes, it becomes an overwhelming list of things that no one person can accomplish on their own. Instead, I try to make some small, short term goals for myself on things that I want to accomplish on my journey. Some of these goals may include connecting with a newly diagnosed patient or sharing my story with someone who has no idea about lung cancer or just helping a friend who may need some support. While it may not be a slam dunk for lung cancer outcomes, it is still impactful and much needed. I am where I am today because of lung cancer advocates who reached out to me. They educated me and supported me when I needed it. You can be a lifeline to someone else by just simply sharing a little of yourself!
How do you stay encouraged?
What are some strategies that you use to stay encouraged and hopeful while advocating for yourself or a loved one? We can all use more tools in our toolkit and would love to hear some suggestions!
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on April 1st, 2023, Julie passed away. Julie’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?