What an absolutely amazing weekend! Almost 100 advocates, caregivers, researchers, staff and 18 SURVIVORS were in attendance, a far cry from the 3 survivors that were in attendance just a few short years ago. Hearing the other survivors’ stories was remarkable. Some for just a year or two like me and others up to 10+ years. This of course was the premise, how to survive longer and thrive with lung cancer. Free to Breathe and The Lung Cancer Research Foundation recently merged and the possibilities of what they will be able to do together in terms of research funding, awareness, advocacy and patient support will greatly influence the changing face of early detection and long term survival of lung cancer.
In two and a half days, we shared our stories and our past and ongoing efforts. We heard from researchers who are on the cutting edge of new and exciting discoveries. We heard a passionate key-note address from Chris Draft, former NFL linebacker who’s wife died at the age of 38, one year after she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Keasha was an amazingly healthy never smoker and I found that I resonated with her story. Because of my 3 years as a contracted sports massage therapist with the Denver Broncos, Chris and I found common ground. We shared Al Miller stories. Al was the strength training coach at the time I was with the Broncos and was also Chris’s strength training coach while he was with the Falcons. But, Chris offered me more than a trip down memory lane, he encouraged me, no, he challenged me to share my story.
During the weekend I experienced a light bulb moment. Thirty years ago when I began my training in massage therapy, we were told that we were on the cutting edge of taking a profession that had a somewhat questionable reputation forward to becoming a legitimized, regulated and licensed profession. We took on educating the public – our prospective clientele, to the benefits that could be derived from receiving therapeutic massage. In the past thirty years, I have watched massage therapy become mainstream. Energy healing, acupuncture and meditation, among many other healing modalities are now recognized as viable practices known to engage one’s own healing potential. Being a player in helping advance the benefits found in the healing arts, along with my passion for the work, has proven humbling and profoundly fulfilling.
Now, another ground breaking opportunity has presented itself… thriving with lung cancer. Chris challenged me to join the many others seeking recognition and change by adding my voice, my face and my passion for finding a cure. Education and public awareness is where we start. It’s where we started with massage therapy to get the recognition and acceptance we now enjoy. Start where you are at. That is one of the messages I received this past weekend. We are committed to shining a long overdue spotlight on this underfunded, under recognized and highly stigmatized disease.
We can’t forget about prevention, smoking is still the number one cause of lung cancer. But, I was taught that if I didn’t smoke, I wouldn’t get lung cancer. This is simply not true. The growing number of never smokers being diagnosed is all the proof we need and the stigma of somehow deserving lung cancer is not only cruel but counter productive to our cause.
There is more to healing than research and medicine, my years as a healer has shown me this. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, not the other way around and so we must not forget that healing can take many paths. Approaching each person as a holistic being is imperative in my view and I was not shy in saying so.
That being said, I am impressed with, and inspired by, Free to Breathe and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and its mission. This is the third year that team ‘The Possibilities’ will be participating in the Denver Free to Breathe Walk which will take place Sunday, October 7th, 2018 at Washington Park. I am truly blessed that so many have joined us in the past and I hope this year’s event elevates our continued desire to raise awareness, destroy the stigma of lung cancer and raise much needed funds for research.
But I also want to capture the spirit of life and how very important it is that we live it fully and fearlessly.
Join me in walking.
Join me in living.
Join me in experiencing how deeply gratifying being a player in something BIG can be!
Participate big or small but I implore you to participate. One in fifteen men and one in seventeen women will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year alone. Keasha and I, along with thousands of others are proof that if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. Join me in changing the stigma and the statistics.
We are starting early this year because we want this year to be the most impactful Denver event to date. I’ll follow up with the link to ‘The Possibilities’ team page in the near future so stay tuned. You can also start your own team! Invite your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. to participate. It truly is an extraordinary experience and I sincerely thank you for all you have already done not only for this cause, but for your prayers, your friendship, your love and your support.