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A Humbling Experience

Last month I had the privilege of attending LUNGevity’s International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference (f/k/a Hope Summit) in Washington, D.C. As one of the original attendees of approximately 15 lung cancer survivors, I have attended every summit and watched it grow each year. It is very rewarding to see how far we have come in getting the word out and helping others. I love seeing old friends and making new ones. There are no words to describe the instant bond and the energy in a room with so many survivors. It is the one time each year that I feel like a normal person, not like a person living with lung cancer. Go figure…

A warm welcome

The first night of the Summit I found myself in the most humbling position. We were all treated to a Welcome Reception with food, drinks, and live music. The entertainment was country music star, Wade Hayes. About 200 survivors were gathered around tables in a large party room with a stage. While Wade was tuning his guitar and warming up, LUNGevity’s Katie Brown talked to the crowd, stalling for a little time in order for Wade to get ready.

Recognizing survivors

After introducing herself and welcoming us all, she started out by asking the crowd to stand up if you have survived lung cancer for at least 1 year. The majority of the room stood up. Then Katie asked those who survived 2 years to remain standing. A few sat down. Then she asked those who have been surviving 3 years to remain standing, 4 years, etc. Through it all, there was nothing but applause for those standing.

As the numbers increased, those standing up decreased, but not in huge numbers. Finally, she got to ten years and I’m happy to say there were still many survivors standing. After that, as the numbers went on, the number of people standing started to decrease at a faster rate. By the time she got to 15 years, there were three of us left standing. When Katie counted 17 years, there was two of us left standing. After the applause, the 17 year survivor sat down.

The only one left standing

I was then left standing on my own. Everything was quiet and I remained standing. Teasingly, Katie shouted, “I guess that’s it” and I replied, “I’m still standing!”. Then Katie asked how many years have I been surviving lung cancer and when I answered 19 years. The response was surreal.

The crowd was roaring and applauding so loud that the room vibrated. I felt like I was out of my body, I wanted to cry, I was so grateful and so full of love and emotion. I don’t know how I held it together. Maybe I didn’t, I don’t remember, it was that mind-blowing. A friend sitting next to me stood and hugged me and shouted in my ear over the noise that I am her hero. 

You are my hero

All I could think of at that moment were my friends in treatment, many with challenging side effects, and how amazed I am at their strength and resilience. I knew her words were heartfelt and said with the best of intentions, but I am just lucky. For now. I thought of those who are no longer with us and those who are struggling and all that came to mind was that I am not the hero. You all are the heroes!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • edydede
    2 months ago

    Loved your story! It really touched me. Thank you for sharing that story with us!

  • Alisa moderator author
    2 months ago

    Thank you so much for letting me know. You just touched me! <3

  • Christine Qiong Wu moderator
    3 months ago

    I remember that scene of calling us to standing. This year is my 1st year to attend the conference. It’s so empowering for us to see you stand there. You are great! You brought a lot of hope for us.

  • Alisa moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you so much, Christine. It was overwhelming (in a good way)!

  • ruthie21
    3 months ago

    I was one of the lucky ones also. It took 6 months to finally get the correct diagnosis…no, it wasn’t Valley Fever…I live in AZ. I had a right upper lobectomy for Adenocarcinoma in April of last year (2018) so I have survived over one year! I didn’t require radiation or chemo and am so thankful for that. My scans are 4 months apart and I do get kind of anxious for a few days before a scan but not too bad, really. I have a few “spots” and ground glass appearance in a lobe of my left lung and so far no changes since prior to my lung surgery. I am 70, back to my full workout at the gym (1.5 hr) and can swim for 25 min without stopping…working my way back up to 30 min and who now knows from there. AND I have never been a smoker! Tried one cigarette in college and hated it! I did grow up near an oil refinery (LA area) and my father was a chain smoker. Love reading these articles

  • Alisa moderator author
    3 months ago

    It’s great you finally got the right diagnosis and thankfully you are okay and enjoying your activities! Thank you so much for sharing! Warmly, Alisa

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