Lessons from Love and Loss
I bet you're thinking of your loved ones, right? Well, I am actually not. What I am writing about is all the friends I have made throughout my lung cancer travels. I have been heavily involved in advocating for more research and awareness and along the way, I have been lucky enough to attend several different types of Lung Cancer Conferences. One, in particular, is Lungevity's Hope Summit.
Bringing the community together
Each year, the last weekend in April, approximately 350 survivors and caregivers descend upon Washington, DC to hear about the newest treatments available and to form bonds with others who know what we are going through. While you're at home going to your treatments, has the thought crossed your mind "that no one knows what you're going through?"
Well, at our yearly Hope Summit the exact opposite is true. There is no feeling like sitting in a room with 350 people, looking around and knowing that every single person in that room knows how you feel, how you get through each day, and the multitude of testing and treatments we endure. It is a weekend filled with love and camaraderie.
Remembering those we lost
But Hope Summit is not a complete silver lining to our lives. Each year, we inevitably lose some of our friends we have made over the past few years. Every few months it seems we lose another friend/brother/sister in our shoes. It doesn't diminish our hope but we cry and grieve for their families. Some are young mothers/fathers with very young children. Those losses are the very hardest to bear.
At the end of the weekend, we hug goodbye and cry because we truly do not know who will be in attendance next year. I realize this sounds so negative but I don't mean it to. I want you to understand that getting involved with others in your same situation will help you to get through every day at your best. When you want to give up, these people give you the strength to go on. They fill your soul with so much love that you feel you will let them down if you give up, so you keep fighting as hard as you can.
Balancing love with loss
Lungevity Hope Summit truly means love and loss for me. Even though I grieve the friends I have lost, I realize I am in a much better place having known them and watching the fight they put up. They never gave up for the sake of spending just one more minute with their loved ones. These are the people I look up to. These are the people that teach me love and loss go hand in hand and both can improve your life in an instant.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.
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