A person lighting a candle

It Takes One Candle to Light a Dark Room

It only takes one candle to light a dark room.  My mom would say that to me any time I would say that my contribution to something wouldn’t make a difference. Of course, my teenage self’s response would be, “Not if it’s a huge room!” I thought I had all the answers back then.

A way to redirect negative feelings

As I grew up I realized, as most children do, that my mom was pretty much always right. She was very good at instilling wisdom, which I often hear in my head and heart and hold dearly. After losing two grandparents, my aunt, and especially my mom and my dad to lung cancer, I was a hot mess. At the time there wasn’t a lung cancer community, walks or support groups. I desperately needed to find a way to redirect my negative feelings.

I was 28 years old when my mom died, and after that I had to dig deep inside myself for her wisdom. My mom never allowed me to complain about something unless I was willing to try and understand and/or fix it. So I listened to my mom’s voice – my heart -- and I lit that candle.

I got involved in lung cancer advocacy 17 years ago when LUNGevity Foundation was just getting off the ground. It was the first organization in the country dedicated exclusively to lung cancer research, and it became my vehicle to fight back and make a difference.

Pouring my heart & soul into advocacy

My advocacy work has been a journey. It was blood, sweat and tears (lots of tears) for many years just trying to get people to care about lung cancer. But, through it all, I found that I didn’t have to cure lung cancer to help one person, to change one life. I just needed to light one candle and make any difference I could, big or small.

I worked on LUNGevity events and found any way I could to help create community and raise money for research. Then nine years ago the unthinkable happened and I became a lung cancer patient myself -- and my focus shifted. I started attending research conferences and providing the patient voice in different settings. I was even a co-author on an article published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and recently co-founded a patient working group to accelerate research in EGFR positive lung cancer. I have done things I never imagined, and so many incredible people and experiences have impacted me along the way.

An eternal flame of hope

I’m proud of all that I have accomplished, but none of it compares to my efforts supporting and empowering newly diagnosed patients and their families. But, I only just realized my impact this year at LUNGevity’s Hope Summit, an annual gathering of lung cancer patients and caregivers. My friend Jill reminded me of all the candles I have lit, and the subsequent candles that were lit from my flame. Seeing and feeling the radiance and warmth in the lung cancer community has moved me beyond words – an eternal flame of hope.

Anne Frank said, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Finding light, or hope, can seem impossible after losing a loved one or receiving a lung cancer diagnosis. For me, the light defies the darkness of lung cancer, and allows me to define the role that lung cancer will play in my life.

Shining bright together as a community

It only takes one candle to light a dark room applies to both the candle doing the lighting, as well as the candle in need of a light. I lit my candle 17 years ago, but it is the light from others that has helped me in my own healing and inspired me to continue to spark change.

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