Participating in the Scientist-Survivor Program

I recently I had the honor of participating in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Scientist-Survivor Program (SSP). It was the 20-year anniversary since its inception and there were 31 survivors divided into six groups. Each group gets a mentor that has previously done the program, and a scientist. Each group is given a topic to learn about by attending sessions and at the end of the 4 days, we all give a presentation. Some did PowerPoints and others did skits, so you can find creative ways to present your data to the group. The goal is to build partnerships between scientists, survivors, and advocates.

Staying up-to-date on the latest research

AACR has an annual oncology conference featuring sessions on the latest news in cancer research. This year it was in Chicago and there were around 23,000 attendees. Thankfully my hotel was connected to McCormick Place because it was really cold, and it snowed. There are enclosed walkways above the streets connecting you to the convention center and another hotel. I didn’t even go outside for 3 days! All our sessions, meetings, and evening receptions were all within these three buildings.

Lysa with her poster about lung cancer research

Advocates working and learning together

It was a very busy 4 days, but I learned so much. There were countless booths including pharma, software companies, and labs. The sessions were presented by researchers and oncologists, and there were special sessions just for us with Dr. Sharpless, the Director of the National Cancer Institute, and the FDA. I also met so many survivors doing amazing things in their communities. They represented various cancers and we all got to present our own poster as well. I really enjoyed getting to know these dedicated advocates and learning about how they were making a difference for others.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few fellow ROS1ders and rooming with my sweet friend, Ivy. In between our 15-hour conference days, we managed to eat some good food and talk about life. I’m so blessed to have these amazing people in my life to navigate this journey with. Did I mention the food? We ate well.

A well-kept secret

I’m sharing this with you because SSP is a well-kept secret. It’s a wonderful program and is extremely organized and fulfilling. Applications are usually due in January and next year the conference is in Atlanta at the end of March. Only a few are chosen, but I encourage you to apply if this sounds like something you’d enjoy. You can apply as an independent advocate or be sponsored by an organization, like I was. I was privileged that Lung Cancer Research Foundation sponsored me and helped create my poster. I know conferences aren't for everyone, but if you love learning and collaborating with other survivors, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

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