By Ken Wheatley
As a caregiver and now widower, lung cancer radically changed the course of my life and my daily existence. I had finally found the most perfect woman. “Soulmate” tends to be an overused word, but in this case it was completely applicable. Having Sheila in my life was like having a constant dose of oxytocin – the love or cuddle hormone. So, when she was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer six months after we got engaged, that was the beginning of the end of my “life.” We got married anyway and Sheila passed away 15 months later.
I got involved with the Lung Cancer Alliance beginning in 2012 and have attended two National Advocacy Summits in Washington, DC. Attending the Summits provides me with an opportunity to recharge by not only communing with people who have a shared experience – either as a patient or as a caregiver – but to put a necessary “face” to the issue in front of congressional decision makers. The event offers a platform for those impacted by lung cancer to connect with one another and our country’s key decision makers, offering both physical and emotional benefit to knowing that our presence in DC matters.
I can’t make sense of why Sheila was taken so suddenly from me and all those who love(d) her. Maybe my purpose, our purpose, is to use what talents or abilities we have, however large or small, to affect change through advocacy and being involved in the efforts to eradicate lung cancer, like participating in the Summits. Research and research funding are vital, and there are organizations dedicated to that path. Advocacy, while not as “sexy,” is a critical and necessary component of the battle.
The 2017 National Advocacy Summit will take place in Washington, DC from September 27-28, 2017. For more information, click here!