I just got back from a very busy, but rewarding, week of travel. Last weekend, Varisara and I attended Lungevity’s International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference. The conference was held for the first time in 2010 and less than 20 people attended that first year. This is how many people were there this year:
I met so many amazing and inspiring people that it would take a novel for me to describe them all! Here are a few that stuck out:
- Chris Draft is a former NFL player who started Team Draft (www.teamdraft.org), a national campaign to change the face of lung cancer, when his wife Keasha was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010. Like me, she was a young, healthy, non-smoker. Sadly, Keasha passed in 2011, but Chris continues to fight this battle in her honor. He mentioned that being in the medical field, I can help to influence and promote early detection among my colleagues.
- Amanda organized an ALK meet-up where I was able to meet with my other fellow “ALKies” from around the world. It was great to be able to talk to people who knew exactly what I was going through and empathize with my struggles (e.g. drugs we’re all on and the related side effects, the fact that we’re never in remission and will always (hopefully) be on some sort of pill or treatment).
- Gina is the president of ALK positive (www.alkpositive.org), a patient-driven support group dedicated to advancing research and advocacy to change the future of ALK positive lung cancer. We discussed how I can get more engaged in the group, become an advocate, and change the face of lung cancer.
- Frank, a fellow ALKie, is a father of 3 young children who was diagnosed 5 years ago. He is also in his 30s and, since he’s a few years ahead of me on the journey, gave me great advice for planning for the future and how to navigate living in limbo (i.e. being in a constant state of unknown).
- Amanda was 24 when she was diagnosed and now 4 years later she’s making the most of the cards she’s been dealt. She is a huge advocate for Lungevity and has an amazing, upbeat attitude. She set-up a meet-up for survivors under the age of 40 and I was surprised at the number of people that I met that are under 40 living with this disease. There were many people in the same situation as me with young children trying to figure out how to traverse this “new normal” while trying to raise a family.
- There were survivors from all over the world who attended the conference, including some who have been battling the disease for over 15 years. It made me feel so hopeful that the progress being made in medical advances is headed in the right direction!
After the weekend ended, we both felt excited and re-energized to fight this battle. I know I can become a bigger advocate for this disease. I have been given a platform that not many people have to make my voice heard through my work as a resident and I plan to use it wisely. Varisara is also thinking up ideas to help the cause and is looking to organize a fundraiser in the near future. This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from the Tran family and we hope anyone reading this will join us in our fight to kick cancer’s a$$! Even Avery is getting in on the action as she loved the swag that mommy and daddy brought back from the conference.
On Monday after the conference we hopped on a plane and headed to Punta Cana for a much needed family vacation. We had a great week spending time with my parents, sister-in-law and her family, and family friends on sunny Bavaro Beach. Although, my wardrobe for beach vacations has changed a bit since being on Alectinib due to the increased photosensitivity. Sun protection clothing is in style now, right?
This whole past week reminded me to take this fight one day at a time, keep making memories, and cherish the moments we get to spend with our loved ones.