Consumer Involvement Banner
Sara Whitlock

Photos and text used with permission of
Ms. Sara Whitlock.

My diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer came out of the blue in October 2010. A life long non-smoker with no symptoms except an enlarged lymph node above my left collarbone, the words tumbling out of my doctor’s mouth seemed impossible. I was healthy, running several miles a week and busy with my roles as wife, mother and nurse practitioner. Within weeks all of what I thought defined me had been stripped away as we tried to combat this enemy with the strongest chemotherapy and radiation available. I was fortunate to be working with doctors who believed I could be in the small group of survivors that were still around five years after diagnosis.
Shortly after my diagnosis, we learned of a Free to Breathe event being put on in our local community. In one short week my team of friends and family gathered over 60 people and raised over $7000 for the National Lung Cancer Partnership (NLCP) to foster awareness and research into lung cancer. I also attended the NLCP’s advocate summit in April of 2011 just a couple of days after finishing my first course of radiation. There I learned of all sorts of ways I could be involved in the advocacy world, including being a patient advocate member on grant review boards. I’ve been privileged to serve on two cycles of grant reviews for the NLCP.
My involvement with the NLCP led to my nomination by them to serve on the LCRP peer review program in 2012. This was an amazing experience that filled me with renewed hope and confidence. Meeting so many passionate people all striving to find causes and cures for this deadly cancer was incredible. These are exciting days in the world of lung cancer. I am thrilled to have a front row seat for all the new treatments and tests that are being developed.
My involvement in advocacy continues to grow in ways I never could have imagined. I have found my voice within this vibrant community and it has empowered me in ways both big and small. One opportunity has led to another, which has led to yet another. I am taking an active role in advancing the science of lung cancer research by reminding those scientists and doctors that there is a real patient behind all the science. Real people just like me who are not only surviving lung cancer but actually thriving.
Almost three years out, I am doing well. My family long ago decided to live with joy and optimism. There have certainly been hard days, but the blessings of this journey have far outweighed the burdens. I am so very grateful.