It’s been so long since I have blogged about my journey, but wow, what an incredible past couple of days it has been. It started with traveling to Washington D.C., as I was being awarded the inaugural Go2 Foundation – Rays of Hope Award in memory of Richard Heimler. I was already honored for this recognition as I traveled out, but then to meet so many members of the Heimler family that were there to help present the award, to learn more about the man Richard was and the love all those around him had for him, the hope and positivity he gave to so many, it was a bit overwhelming actually. But what an incredible honor, which then put it over the top to have learned that his daughter was also on the selection committee. It was a moment that I will never forget and thank you to all that helped in the nomination and selection (thanks Jaimi and Mike :).
And then, with all that going on in my head and this increasing pressure from the clear meaning of this award, I get to stand up in front of a room full of amazing people with unbelievable stories, incredibly strong and kind people, and people that no doubt made a difference for patients like myself to benefit from new treatments based on the funding of research we do get. (While it isn’t nearly enough, I deeply thank all those that fought for the funding we did have, as it has clearly given me more years to live my life.) So talk about this incredible feeling of being deeply honored and humbled at the same time, it admittedly took me a moment to gather myself.
So, stumbling my way into my short acceptance, I regrouped and was on my way. This was one of the good ones I think, if it follows my theory that is. I’m going off the idea that if I don’t remember much of the talk, I must have been in the zone and things going smoothly. At that point, I’m really only going to remember a couple things. #1 any stumbles that cause me to have to think about where I am in my story or #2 is if I get laughs (haha, okay I enjoy when people relate to my corny humor). Anyway, a couple laughs and not any big hurdles, a success on my side at least. 🤷🏼♂️ Getting into the zone also helps me not think about the fear of public speaking that comes up into full gear about 5 minutes before a talk and was only magnified in this case. 😬 (Even though my own family doesn’t believe me any more about my fear/nerves. 🤨) I thank all of you that took the time to introduce yourself and congratulate me on the award and short speech, it always means so much.
Then the next day brought a first for me. We “stormed the Hill” and had advocacy meetings with our So Cal/Cal constituents group and 7 different Congress/Senate offices. Sharing our stories and hoping to make a difference and bring light to a cancer that causes 25% of cancer deaths, yet receives only 6% of the funding. Or one more picture and thought here, a “passenger jet” full of lung cancer patients die daily and yet there’s no real response. Could you imagine if an actual plane went down every day? How fast would we react? The stigma of being a smokers disease needs to end. I’m not a smoker, in fact I personally hate smoke, but no one deserves this and fault is really no ones to know for sure so shouldn’t be a factor. And I hope, while it’s rapidly becoming a young, female, never-smoker issue, that we can start to do more now before we are even farther behind what’s possible.
Anyway, what a cool experience. At the same time that I can’t tell you we made a difference yesterday in our meetings for sure, I also know nothing happens unless we do the work and hope to make that connection, that earns us a champion in an office, that can grow to others, and impact a policy.
And now I sit on a plane thinking about this amazing journey. The highs, the lows, the incredible people I’ve met along the way, the gifts it has given, and the “gifts” it has given. Going through the lessons I think I’ve learned and the lessons I seem to understand well enough but fail to implement because of past habits. But what a journey this has been, and these past couple days reminded me of all of the positives that have come from this.
Thank you all once again for being a part of this journey with me.