Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 9.25.44 PMAbout a year ago, I wrote about Awareness and Action, That they are vastly different things. One is the actual act of something, the other is passive, and involves doing nothing. That’s right, nada, Zilch. Zero things are done. Bupkis. So in the dying hours of this Giving Tuesday, I want to remind people of just that. We should act and give, not just today, because we have been sold on a “gimmick”, but because we want to. Often even every day. It can be big or small. It also doesn’t have to be money, it can be time or a good deed. We have gotten too used to throwing awareness around, that nothing really happens. Lots and lots of inaction.

So why do we need a reminder?! Goodness and giving should be a no brainer, right?!

Is it that we get so wrapped up in our own drama, that we don’t see, or make time? AreScreen Shot 2017-11-28 at 9.26.08 PM we keeping score? If we are, then we shouldn’t, because life owes us nothing.

So I’m reminding you, Awareness is great, be aware, but also act.

I’m leaving this here, because I have to.

Be kind. Be good. Be present. Be generous. Give. Be well.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 9.07.57 PM

Organizations I love.

Lung Cancer Canada

Young Adult Cancer Canada

First Descents

Save Me Dog Rescue

T’was the Evening of Hope

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month and tonight is Lung Cancer Canada’s annual  Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 4.18.11 PM.pngCasey Cosgrove who was the MC and truly synonymous with this night. Casey was such an integral part of this organization and made a huge difference to so many people dealing with lung cancer by not only sharing his own experience but by being a relentless advocate for the cause. On a very personal level he was a dear friend who I admired and miss very much. My heart is hurting.

Tonight won’t be the same without Casey but we will carry on best we can and try to continue the work he was so passionate about.

The above was written by my dear friend Roz Brodsky (A 3x lung cancer survivor), her words captured my feelings so well, that I asked to share them.

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 4.26.28 PMI wish I could say that “if you didn’t know it was Lung Cancer Awareness Month, you’re living under a rock!”, but that is not the case. Most people I have asked were surprised. Well of course they were, we don’t have white/pearl/clear ribbons everywhere. We don’t have cement trucks with our message spread across it; we don’t really have walks, or Runs for the Cure. What we have is misinformation, apathy, and inadequacies.

I can’t tell you how many smoking cessation ads I have seen. Horrible in their depiction and so stereotypical that they add to the stigma and apathy. I am all for helping people quit, I personally believe we should treat an addiction, like an addiction, not a bad habit. I also think these ads should be part of a campaign strictly for cessation and illustrating ALL the diseases it is a risk factor for.

The sad part of associating these two things is that patients like so many others, and myself have to defend ourselves or tell people we are “Non/never smokers”. We shouldn’t have to, because we both have the same thing in common, lungs. The point being, it can happen to anyone at any age.

I have been radio silent this #LCAM because I have so much to say, but am so discouraged and tired of banging my head against the wall. I don’t know what it will take? It’s not the lives lost 1.59 million globally, or as my friends in the US will tell you #433aday, which is the number of Americans that die daily from this disease. We would take notice if a jumbo jet plummeted to the ground, right? Why can’t we see that this is happening daily!

I have posted a statistics laden post the last few years; I’m not going to do that again. What I Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 4.26.14 PMleave you with is, that Lung Cancer unbiased, it comes for everyone, regardless of age, sex, creed or colour, because we all have lungs. Anyone can get lung cancer.

Be Well


Konichi wa Nihon

So today is the big day, day one of the IASLCs World Lung Cancer conference! After a few days getting our feet grounded after so so much travel, I’m ready to report! 

So far it’s a busy day (what an understatement). I type this as I wait for my second big session. I’ll be back later with a summary of my day, and a few highlights of the conference’s first day. Until then, you can keep posted by following on Twitter (@thesearemyscars, @iaslc, #WCLC2017, or #LCSM, or Facebook). 

Sorry I can’t live link, but I will later on. Blogging by phone has its limitations! 

Sayonara for now, 


Magic Happens

Something magic happens when you gather lung cancer patients together!

On the evening of Thursday November 17th Lung Cancer Canada hosted their annual Evening of Hope Gala. What was different this year was that our Gala would kick off our first Hope is Here Patient Summit.

We welcomed Canadians from all over the country to the first ever lung cancer patient summit for a one-day conference held at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. The Summit featured educational break-out sessions, inspirational speakers (including myself and other patients), and the opportunity to connect with people from all over Canada who have had a lung cancer diagnosis.

The day was opened by our President Dr. Wheatley-Price. I followed him in welcoming our guests by sharing a bit about my story and all the breakthroughs in treatments and diagnostics that have been approved and are in practice since I was diagnosed in 2009. Our  morning program began with New Advances in Lung Cancer and covered a number of topics: Screening and Surgery; Radiation Therapy; Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapies; Future Direction of Lung Cancer; and a question session moderated by Dr. Wheatley-Price.

Dr. Gail Darling gave us a comprehensive overview of the roll-out for Ontario’s Early Screening Lung Cancer Program for high risk populations. This is fantastic news because all the research surrounding early detection programs is very positive. The NIH’s National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) 2011, showed a 20% decrease in mortality in the screened group. That may not seem like much, but consider that for the same number of breast cancer patients screened there is only a 3 to 4% decrease in mortality. They showed that the number of lung cancer patients needed to screen to save one life is 320. For colon cancer the number is 600 and for breast it is 1000, proving early screening for this targeted population is truly effective and does indeed save lives.

Radiologist Dr. David Palma provided a very passionate presentation about radiation in populations that may have previously been denyed an opportunity to have radiation as a viable option after metastasis. He also championed the idea that in order for patients to be partners in their care and recieve the best care, they need to know how to advocate for themselves, decipher reports and how to compare their care against published guidelines.

Dr. Rosalyn Juergens gave us the low-down on Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapies. A very informative session illustrating complexity of lung cancer and the variety of new therapies designed to treat them. She discussed the numerous targeted therapies available for both EGFR and ALK, but now also for ROS1 and other driver mutations. Immunotherapy is another area where a number of agents are being tested and approved for use in patients with great success and lasting effects. Finally, there is hope for lung cancer patients.

With our brains and notepads full, it was time for a break and a bit of socializing. Following the break, we continued with the McAlpine’s who shared their story with us. The crowd was brought to tears as Ian and his wife Cathy shared the ups and downs of accessing treatment. To my amazement, I realised that I had seen them many times and that we had shared a doctor. Their tenacity brought them from British Columbia to Ontario to get care, and I am so happy that the journey has been successful.

My former oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Rothenstein gave his presentation about participating in and accessing clinical trials. According to his presentation, only 3 out o f 100 patients take part in clinical trials and even fewer lung cancer patients participate. What is mindboggling is that 85% of patients aren’t aware that clinical trials are viable treatment options. I can attest that clinical trials save lives! I literally wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for that option.

My current oncologist Dr. Natasha Leighl presented her perspective on treatment access and cost. What was great about this presentation was that it wasn’t just literal cost of medications that was discussed, but the toll on the family, inequality of access, and a number of other factors that affect patients after a diagnosis of lung cancer. I had no idea that Canada was second behind the U.S. in out of pocket drug costs, and that 91% of cancer patients will suffer from financial toxicity. She also highlighted the fact that Canada is much slower than other countries when it comes to drug approval and funding. This was a focus of Lung Cancer Canada this year in their 2016 edition of Faces of Lung Cancer.

Before we dispersed for lunch, my friend and our Vice President Casey Cosgrove discussed advocacy and community involvement. Illustrating both the need for volunteers and advocates and ways to help. I loved his point that not everyone is good at or wants to do everything, but if we do what we’re are comfortable with, we can help in our own way.

During our lunch break, our keynote speaker Darrell Fox spoke to us about his older brother Terry, and the legacies Terry Fox left behind. The Terry Fox Foundation which has raised over 700 million dollars since Terry’s death in 1981 and the Terry Fox Research Institute. The TFRI is funding the Pan-Canadian Early Lung Cancer Detection Study. Darrell also shared his father Roland’s story. Rollie as he was known passed away this year from lung cancer making the Fox family a part of our community. It was a truly emotional speech and not many of us had a dry eye.

The remainder of the day consisted of breakout sessions that included sessions in nutrition, breathing and exercise, financial planning and palliative care. Each session was very informative. The nutrition session provided ideas and tips to quick healthy meals that cater to health and healing. The exercise and breathing session demonstrated activities that one could do at home and that could be adapted to differing abilities. The session was sponsored by Wellspring who hosts a 20 week exercise program for patients. The financial planning session provided tips to help plan while ill, or to prepare incase of death. Finally, the session on palliative care discussed the variety of options and that palliative care isn’t just about dying.

After regrouping it was time to close the day with a photo and good-byes.

img_4746It is impossible to describe the feeling when you meet someone else like you.Therefore unimaginable when you meet 60. All I can say is my heart was full and I am so privileged to be a part of such a wonderful event. This was Lung Cancer Canada’s first Hope Is Here Patient Summits, I know it won’t be the last. I thank everyone in the office and all the volunteers and sponsors for everything you did!




The Need for Lung Cancer Literacy

November 1st marked lung cancer awareness month in Canada and the US. It received little fan-fare and still largely goes un-noticed. After all we don’t have cute logos, fancy ribbons, big marketing campaigns, and many media outlets just don’t pick up the lung cancer story. So what do we have? We have numbers, we have stigma, and we have hope.

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-8-16-07-pmEvery year 28,4001 Canadians and 221,2002 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer. Of those diagnosed, 20,8003 in Canada and 157,4994 in the US will have their lives taken from this disease. The truth is that while many other cancers have improved 5-year survival rates, lung cancer still remains one of the lowest at about 17%5.

One of the many reasons for this in my humble opinion is the lack of lung cancer literacy, or for lack of better words awareness. With most diseases, awareness doesn’t always mean action, but for us, awareness and education is key in convincing people to act. Most North Americans think that breast cancer is the largest cancer killer, but in fact, it is lung cancer. Actually, lung cancer takes more lives than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers combined6.

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-8-16-44-pmIf one has asked me what type of cancer I thought I may get in my lifetime, seven years ago before lung cancer happened to me, I would have thought it would be breast cancer. After all, I am a woman with breasts and like many, I didn’t think that because I was human and had lungs that I’d be at risk. The reality is, one of the fastest growing segments in lung cancer is the population of young, non/never smokers (17.9%)7. Add to that the population of people who had previously quit smoking (60%)8, and you begin to get a different picture of lung cancer.

The sad truth is that lung cancer is usually diagnosed in late stages (Stage 3 and 4) meaning the disease is already advanced, complicated and difficult to treat. Another reality faced by patients and their caregivers is the stigma associated with the disease. We have known the connection between tobacco products and cancer for decades, the problem is the widespread assumption that it is the only cause of lung cancer, leading to a blame the victim mentality. The truth is, the greatest risk factor for getting lung cancer is having lungs. That of course is followed by tobacco, radon, genetic and many unknown factors.

Lung cancer is not just one disease, it is far more complicated than was once thought. It is categorized as small cell (SCLC) or non-small cell (NSCLC), but can then further be divided by cell type and beyond. In the past decade alone, they have discovered numerous genetic drivers to lung cancer, each requiring a treatment plan that caters to the nature of the cancer.

Despite the abysmal mortality rate and the growing number of newly diagnosed patients, funding for lung cancer research is grossly disproportionate. In the US the National Institute of Health Research (NIH) calculated the dollars allocated per death across many disease areas and found that lung cancer received only $1479 as compared to $2131 for heart disease, $5,804 for colon cancer, $19,250 for breast, and $9,647 for all cancers9. In Canada, only 7% of cancer specific government research funding is allocated to lung cancer but what is worse is less than 1% of private cancer donations goes towards lung cancer research10.

It may sound very doom and gloom, but there are many rays of hope. Through the dedication of researchers, oncologists, nurses, pathologists, patients, and so many more, a number of breakthroughs have been made in diagnostics, less invasive surgical options, revolutionary treatments such as targeted therapies and immunotherapy and are being used in clinics today. The winds of change are blowing and with more awareness and research dollars, real change can be made. You can help by donating to lung cancer research, volunteering at a local organization, being compassionate to patients, or by sharing this article.


1. Canadian Cancer Society – 2016 Canadian Cancer Statistics. Available at: http://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer. ca/CW/cancer information/cancer 101/Canadian cancer statistics/Canadian-Cancer-Statistics-2016-EN.pdf?la=en. Last accessed on October 19, 2016.

2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2015. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2015. pp.4.

3. Canadian Cancer Society – 2016 Canadian Cancer Statistics. Available at: http://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer. ca/CW/cancer information/cancer 101/Canadian cancer statistics/Canadian-Cancer-Statistics-2016-EN.pdf?la=en. Last accessed on October 19, 2016.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Detection: Deaths: National Vital Statistics Report, Final Data for 2012. NVSR Volume 63, Number 9. 85 pp. (PHS) 2014 – 1120, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr63/nvsr63_09.pdf

5. Lung Cancer Canada. 2015 Faces of Lung Cancer Report, Toronto: Lung Cancer Canada, 2015. pp6.

6. Lung Cancer Canada. 2015Faces of Lung Cancer Report, Toronto: Lung Cancer Canada, 2015. pp6.

7. Centers for Disease and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Cigarette Smoking Among Adults- United States. 2006,” November 9, 2007/56(44): 1157-1161, Table 2.

8. Centers for Disease and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Cigarette Smoking Among Adults- United States. 2006,” November 9, 2007/56(44): 1157-1161, Table 2.

9. Funding Source: http://report.nih.gov/categorical_spending.aspx Source of Actual Deaths: Centers for Disease Control and Detection: Deaths: National Vital Statistics Reports, Final Data for 2012. NVSR Volume 63, Number 9. 85pp. (PHS) 2014 – 1120 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63-09.pdf

10. Canadian Cancer Research Alliance 2007, CRA 2009, Canadian Cancer Society 2010.