On Sunday, June 28th, our organization, LUNGevity Foundation, teamed up with the Patient Empowerment Network and the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center of Northwestern University to host a lung cancer town hall meeting. The room was full with over 100 lung cancer survivors and caregivers, while dozens more watched live online from across the country.
The meeting was meant to be educational—a chance for survivors and caregivers to learn more about their disease, what the future looks like, and how medical professionals work with their lung cancer patients. Sitting on the panel were experts in the field of lung cancer treatment and advocacy: Malcolm DeCamp, MD, Chief of Thoracic Surgery, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University; Paul K. Paik, MD, Medical Oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Sarah Rosenbloom, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University; Mary Ellen Hand, RN, BSN, Nurse Coordinator, Rush University Medical Center; Katie Brown, Certified Patient Navigator, Vice President of Support and Survivorship Programs, LUNGevity Foundation; Janice DeArmas, 7-Year Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Survivor and Patient Advocate.
But something more came out of the meeting—empowerment.
The first time I witnessed this was during lunch. I grabbed a spot at a table with five ladies without knowing any of them in advance. I’ll admit, they looked like a hoot, so I thought it would be a really fun table to sit at. I wasn’t disappointed.
After introducing ourselves, we learned that none of us knew each other before that moment. You would expect awkward silences and mild conversation, but this group was eager to meet fellow survivors such as themselves. They bonded instantly. Talking openly and candidly, they gave advice and shared their personal experiences. You could almost see lights click on as they learned about things that they had never thought of—or maybe never felt comfortable enough asking their own medical team. Within this group, they could ask those important questions and get answers. Looking around the room, I observed other groups having the same positive experience.
Back in the lecture hall, the speaker panel opened up for Q&A from the online and in-person audience, and I experienced this empowerment a second time. It occurred through the simple process of speaking openly and asking questions.
Survivors wanted to know more. Some asked the hard questions. Some shared their experiences and what they learned from the day. Some shared their fears and frustrations. The opportunity to talk about living with lung cancer surrounded by over 100 people who could understand and relate was powerful.
The panel did a wonderful job of providing relevant information for survivors and caregivers to take home with them. And that was the point of the day: to empower every survivor with resources to better communicate with their own medical and support teams; to ask the important questions and seek the best support.
Please check out the resources from the town hall meeting on the Patient Power website, as well as those available on the LUNGevity website. By taking these simple steps, you too will become empowered.