I first became involved with LUNGevity through National HOPE Summit, a survivorship conference in Washington, D.C. Seeing so many survivors and being able to share our stories and gain knowledge made the experience very special. I’m always impressed by the quality of what I learn and what is shared. The fact that the medical researchers can interact with patients in an intimate setting and participate in the roundtable discussions is very inspiring.
Going to HOPE Summit has been a springboard for many other volunteer and advocacy opportunities. At my first conference, I learned about the LifeLine peer-to-peer support program. As a long-term survivor, I wanted to use my story to try to inspire hope in others who were living with lung cancer, so I jumped at the chance to give back as a mentor.
Through HOPE Summit, I also got to know Andrea Ferris, LUNGevity’s President, and Katie Brown, LUNGevity’s Vice President of Support & Survivorship. Katie recommended me as a reviewer for the Department of Defense research grant program and I love being part of that. LUNGevity also connected me with Eli Lilly & Co. who produced an Emmy-winning documentary about my family and me. I've attended a congressional luncheon on Capitol Hill with LUNGevity, and a lab tour at Lilly.
I was looking for ways to give back in my local community, so a few years ago I started a support group in Fort Myers, Florida. The group provides wonderful camaraderie and community. We meet once a month to share stories and experiences and resources, and we also get together socially once a month. We’re a close-knit group.
In 2017, I convinced four members of my lung cancer support group to attend National HOPE Summit with me. We were so inspired that we decided to organize a Breathe Deep event in Fort Myers to raise awareness about the facts of lung cancer. We were able to share our story in local media and even surpassed our fundraising goal. We held the 5K walk and fun run on November 4 to kick off Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Breathe Deep Fort Myers brings attention to lung cancer and the lack of funding and gives us the opportunity to get rid of the stigma. We want to let the people in our area know that you don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer, that two out of three of the people diagnosed are never-smokers or quit many years ago.
Being an event coordinator gives me such a feeling of purpose. I’ve been so aimless since I retired from teaching because of my health. Helping others through this event and through the support group is very rewarding. Our number one goal is to provide much needed research funding. We also want to raise money for patient education and support, and help continue to bring top-notch speakers to HOPE Summits. I hope that both the walk and the support group continue to grow and make an impact in the community.
LUNGevity is so patient-oriented and offers so much support and information and education that it aligns with my goals. I want to give back to LUNGevity because I feel like they’ve given a lot to all of us. That makes me want to do as much as I can to help support LUNGevity’s mission to improve quality of life and survivorship.
Melissa (bottom right) with members of the Fort Myers Lung Cancer Support Group and their families at the 2017 National HOPE Summit.