By Barb Miller and Tracy Anderson; Mother and daughter

My mom and I walked into the Keybridge Marriot in Arlington VA in May of 20012, not knowing what to expect.  We were there to experience the LUNGevity Survivors Hope Summit for the first time.   A friend told us that she saw something about this organization on Facebook and thought we might be interested in checking them out.  We did, and immediately knew we wanted to learn more.   Both of us were awarded full grants to go to the summit but still weren’t sure what we were really getting ourselves into.   We checked in, got into our room and did a few things to kill time before the “Welcome reception” that LUNGevity had put together for the survivors and their caregivers.   Both of us are lung cancer survivors and were looking for more information about LC, how to stay cancer free, and whatever else LUNGevity had to offer. 

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We got what we came for and oh, so much more… more than we ever could have imagined.  We had some appetizers and a few drinks while meeting other survivors.  When the evening ended, we were on our way to our room for the night when 2 women stopped us because they recognized us from FB and wanted to get to know us in person.  We went out with a group of survivors who we immediately bonded with.  The whole weekend was almost magical.  We experienced something that is difficult to explain.  We laughed together, shared our stories, learned about the new treatments and those about to come out, heard about the latest research, how to stay healthy, care for our loved ones, how to get involved and be advocates and how to help others who are about to embark on the same journey we have already traveled. We cried tears of joy and sadness, we laughed and we gave and received many hugs.  Most importantly, we made friends that will, no doubt, last a lifetime! 

The people we met are more than friends… they are FAMILY!  They know and understand a part of us that no one, who hasn’t experienced what we have, could even begin to understand. We stay in touch on Facebook. Social media and technology are great because via email and phone calls we are there to cheer each other on, provide support and encouragement, and just be there through thick and thin. 

I, Tracy, have connected with Lung cancer survivors in my area, I have gotten on the committee for the Breathe Deep North Shore Walk/Run, become a life line support mentor for those newly diagnosed, and have learned how to use my big mouth to become a lung cancer advocate, which has helped me educate and spread awareness wherever I go.   

LUNGevity gave me a voice to make a difference in the lives of those living with lung cancer. This experience has literally changed my life and has given me a real purpose outside of my family.  Connecting with others has also changed my mom’s life. She has had two recurrences in the past two years and the support from our sister and brothers survivors across the country is what keeps her spirits up and gives her HOPE!

Being a part of this special group is both empowering, and heartbreaking.   Knowing that we are helping others, raising awareness, and bringing about change, in regards to getting rid of the stigma associated with our disease, raising crucial funds for more research, new/better treatments and early detection,  connecting with others to assist them in walking the same path we walked is what empowerment is all about. Now, being that we are a group of Lung cancer warriors and survivors, there are also times of heartbreak and tears that interrupt our moments of accomplishment.  Unfortunately, we still lose some of our brother and sister survivors because they simply ran out of time.    It is truly heartbreaking but it also lights the proverbial fire under our butts to keep pushing forward in our fight.

Hope Summit is where the new Tracy was born and where I continue to grow as the Lung cancer advocate I want to be. Hope Summit Family is the support my didn’t have when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer, but thankfully she has that family now. The experience and people we have met means “New Life and Family”.   I LOVE MY FAMILY!!

Tracy Anderson and Barb Miller