By Barbara Mendoza
I joined the Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) as Office Manager in June 2015. Having worked in nonprofit organizations and office management for almost my entire career, I feel quite at home in my work. I enjoy the nitty gritty aspects of administrative tasks, the sense of completion of checklists and solutions. And though “office work” may sound dull to some, most administrative professionals in the world of nonprofits know that it is anything but! Another plus is when your organization seeks to make a difference in peoples’ lives and you realize that the mundane “office work” you do helps to support those on the frontlines of making that difference. You realize that life is more than profit margins.
My experience at LCA, however, has struck at a deeper level. A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with advanced small cell lung cancer in late 2013 and by last June had already been through chemotherapy and several clinical trials. His illness had brought me to my knees. In one of those weird confluences of how life sometimes works, I happened to be looking for new employment and also just happened to come across the job listing at LCA. Needless to say, my world came together.
One of LCA’s many strengths is its deep well of support for lung cancer patients, families, friends, and caregivers through phone support, education resources, information, public awareness, fighting for research funding (lung cancer has the highest level of cancer deaths — more than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined –and yet is one of the least funded in research and treatment) and early screening.
In working with my new colleagues, I found that support on a personal level. They were there for me from the beginning, when my friend died a few months later, as well as now – for cancer is something that turns the timeline of our lives into “Before…” and handling “The New Normal” – treatment, survival, grief. It also turns a person on the administrative side into a frontline soldier. A deliveryman remarks that he has just been diagnosed with lung cancer and I’m able to direct him to resources, treatment centers and further assistance. I become outspoken now at the stigma lung cancer has – people asking upon hearing someone’s diagnosis “Oh, did he smoke?” even before saying “I’m sorry to hear that” — when in fact, almost 20% of lung cancer patients are never-smokers, and 60% have quit decades ago. Stigma causes underfunding of research dollars and adds unfair judgment and suffering to people and families who have enough on their plate already.
I am thankful that I am able to be a piston driving the engines of the nonprofit world. I am thankful that I can help extend a hand of hope to fellow human beings and fight the good fight to honor my friend’s life. One can find passion and purpose even in the most routine things. I found mine.