Are We Only Speaking to the Choir?

Another writer posted this thought recently in reference to lung cancer and its public awareness. "We are being recognized!" She proceeded to give some examples of various conferences focusing on lung cancer, summits that bring patients together to support and learn from one another, and more. As I read over her short essay, I found myself agreeing with everything she wrote. Then, I read a comment about her piece from a fellow lung cancer patient. This lady attended a cancer event that was open to all cancer types and found herself in a sea of pink with nary a lung cancer patient to be found other than herself.

Showing up to represent the lung cancer community

I did what many patient advocates do when I read that. I offered words of encouragement to this lonely patient. I said it was great that she showed up because every one of us makes a difference and we have to keep putting our feet in the pond, even when we are the first to do so. Next year, hopefully there will be more, and the year after that, still more to represent the cause of lung cancer awareness and education. I thought that was good advice...but as I've given it more thought in the day or two since I wrote that response, I've decided that she has raised an issue that perhaps few of us in lung cancer circles have given enough thought to.

The question I find myself wondering about more and more is "Are we only speaking to the choir?" We are, indeed, seeing more lung cancer patients attending summits and conferences and fundraising events all aimed at lung cancer researchers, medical professionals, patients, caregivers, and others who are already interested in lung cancer issues. Granted, there are giant annual conferences targeting all cancers put on by ASCO, AACR and others. But, are we missing the vast majority of the non-medical professional public, including everyone else in the wider cancer community, who continue to think little about lung cancer and know even less about it?

How can we gain momentum?

Perhaps we need to diversify our efforts more as we gain momentum in our efforts to increase public attention through the media, public appearances and any other ways we find to engage people about lung cancer. Though the lady who posted her comment felt frustrated and sad that she was the only lung cancer patient at the cancer gathering she attended, I say, maybe it's time many more of us seek out such opportunities, even if it means we are the only "white ribbon" person in attendance. It can be a chance for us to open eyes, ears and hearts among those who already have an interest in improving health and specifically circumstances surrounding other forms of cancer. When it is a generic event, there is no reason it needs to be all pink. In fact, white actually goes well with every other ribbon color out there.

We all know that public awareness and education about lung cancer continues to be severely lacking, but it's also true that more and more people within the lung cancer community are working hard to improve that circumstance with each passing day. I think we should all begin to think not about switching our emphasis to more generic events, but about adding them to our potential focus so we can make our educational ripples expand beyond the horizon. This could help in every endeavor we seek to improve -- fundraising, research, public education, patient education, caregiver support, you name it.

Let's get out of our lung cancer comfort zone and go where the support isn't...yet. It won't happen on its own. Who's with me?

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.

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