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Words of Hope and Strength Do Not Cure Cancer/by Katie Brown


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Words of Hope and Strength Do Not Cure Cancer

June 5th, 2013 - by Katie Brown



I love to communicate with different and interesting words. I think words are delicious and I think the right words can inspire others, especially over the internet. Some people may blame my love of words and catchy phrases on my past pee-wee cheer-leading experience (an elementary version of “Bring it On!”) or the fact that I was a reporter for my college paper (yes it was actual newsprint back then) or maybe it’s because I’m a mom to two really clever kids, who teach me new words and phrases everyday. For whatever reasons, I love words. I also love to make up words.

Making up words and phrases is my thing. When I’m having a bad day, things are “craptastic”. When something I’m counting on falls through, that’s a “poop-thing” to happen. When I’m having a great day things are “awe-MAZING” or “beautimous” and when I’m describing our annual HOPE Summit , it’s “HOPEtacular.”

I know it’s not the most professional language to use, but the patients and families I support see enough professionals on a daily basis. By the time they get to me, they are looking for patient navigation, emotional and practical support, a one on one real time connection, and hopefully at the very least, a smile. Those are things I can deliver on.


Recently I was cautioned by a fellow survivor over the use of some of my descriptive words. Survivor. Strength. Hope. Warrior.

I’ve read the handful of articles over the years who have said that words of “hope” and “strength” and “survivorship” don’t cure cancer and are just an added pressure placed onto patients. They want people like me to “get real” and not offer false hope.

I can truthfully say I’m the first person to “be” real and not offer false hope. I’ve held the hands of each of my parents as they took their last breaths and I’ve lost countless to lung cancer in my 11 years as a patient advocate in the lung cancer community. That’s as “real” as it gets, folks. While I realize the seriousness of what people impacted by lung cancer go through, as a cancer survivor myself I also believe that every day should be celebrated in some way.

Words like hope and strength, courage and fighter have been used to describe people impacted by cancer long before I ever became a patient advocate. The difference is I use these kinds of words to describe and inspire those with lung cancer.


Historically, a lung cancer diagnosis was never thought of as “hopeful”. It has been described as a death sentence. There were rarely any “survivors” and the word “strong” wasn’t used to describe someone who had been diagnosed with the deadliest cancer killer and going through extremely harsh treatments.

While lung cancer still claims the lives of more people than any other cancer and still receives the least in funding dollars, there has been marked progress in the 11 years since my dad was diagnosed. The science is very encouraging and LUNGevity, the largest lung cancer nonprofit, funds more lung cancer research than anyone else. I’m seeing more people live longer with lung cancer and live with it as a chronic disease. I see an integrative and interactive medical community and collaborative treatment team. I see young researchers excited and interested in making an impact against this disease. I see a better quality of life for people diagnosed with lung cancer, clinical trials and many more treatment options today than 10 years ago. We have a very long way to go in our pursuit of making lung cancer a survivable disease at all stages of diagnosis, but there has been progress.


Patients feel stronger. They feel hopeful. I’m meeting more and more multi-year survivors. Through events like the HOPE Summit they feel empowered to make their survivorship the best it can be- whether that survivorship is just months long or many years long.

And that IS hopeful.

I don’t mean to negate the gravity of a lung cancer diagnosis when I use the word “hope”. I don’t ever mean to imply a positive attitude and some crafty words is all anyone needs to survive this disease.

What I do mean to do is inspire and encourage people with my words.

I use the stories of survivors to inspire people who are newly diagnosed so that they don’t feel isolated or alone. When I see a photo of a stage 4 survivor in active treatment, who has a multitude of side effects, walk on a treadmill or complete a cancer walk, the words I use to describe that patient are COURAGEOUS and LUNGevity STRONG.

No. No amount of cheerleading and none of these clever words or descriptions will cure lung cancer. But let me tell you what it can do.

Words can make you laugh or smile. They can inspire someone on the brink of despair. Words can refill lost hopefulness. They can offer emotional support to someone who otherwise may have no one. Words can educate someone enough to get a second opinion, to ask questions, speak to their doctors and empower them to advocate for themselves and improve their quality of life.

I think that’s HOPETASTIC.

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