Everyone Needs a Break
About a year after diagnosis, I sought out ways to get involved in the lung cancer community. First, it was locally by gathering a team of supporters and participating in a walk. The director of the walk asked me to say a few words about my journey and why funding was so crucial.
My start in advocacy
I was really nervous, and didn’t like speaking in front of large groups, but it lit something in me. I didn’t consciously think “I’m going to become an advocate”, but that one day snowballed into what became my life’s purpose. I discovered there were 1000’s of other survivors and family members that were all trying to make a difference and change the face of lung cancer.
We raise money, we support the newly diagnosed, we use our voices to make policy change, and we demand more funding for research. Anyone can do this simply by sharing your story and telling them why lung cancer needs more attention. Being an advocate is not for the thin-skinned or the weak of heart. We sometimes lose friends on a weekly basis and this breaks my heart every time. I hate seeing the families suffer and the devastation left behind, but it reminds me that we still have so much work to do and gives me motivation to continue the fight.
Through the highs and lows
Being an advocate can definitely take its tolls on you with the high emotions and endless efforts to make a difference. I sometimes feel the energy I put in barely makes a dent. It makes it worth it when another survivor says, “Thank you; I feel better now” or “You get exactly how I’m feeling.” I have made so many wonderful connections and I consider them the silver linings of living with this disease. I’m so grateful for these special friendships.
I was elated to hear of the drastic funding increase to the Department of Defense’s CDMRP for lung cancer. This was a direct result of advocates that participated in the Life and Breath rally and Lung Cancer Alliance’s Hill Day, along with the innumerable phone calls and emails made. This shows we ARE making a difference.
Taking time for myself
I have learned that there are times when I need to take a break. Mentally and emotionally I get exhausted. I attended two conferences and helped organize a rally in April, then I started chemo again in May. I figured it was a good time to take a break and focus on my health and state of mind. I do have to say, even though I needed it, after 3 months off, I feel a little like a slacker. It’s not in my nature to sit around and watch things happen. I need to participate. Who knew my stubbornness and vocal opinions could be put to good use? Time to get back to work.
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?