DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Jill Feldman

Photos and text used with permission of
Ms. Jill Feldman.

For me, lung cancer has been a 30-year roller coaster ride with no end in sight. I lost my dad and two grandparents to lung cancer when I was 13, and then my mom and aunt died from lung cancer when I was in my 20s. Needless to say, I was devastated, bitter, and angry.

Coincidence or fate, in 2001 seven lung cancer patients had just founded LUNGevity Foundation in my hometown. I had no control over my losses, but advocacy has given me control and has been a vehicle to redirect my negative feelings into action. It was blood sweat and tears in the beginning, but as a volunteer, former board member, past president and chair, I am honored to have played a critical role in the growth of the organization.

The other control I had was to be my own advocate. I didn't want my four kids to ever go through what I had gone through, so I began having CT scans when my mom was diagnosed. All was good until 2009 when the unthinkable happened and I became the patient. Considering my intimacy with lung cancer and being president of LUNGevity at the time, the irony of being diagnosed at 39 years old with the same disease that I literally watched kill both of my parents, and others I loved, is still surreal.

I've had two surgeries, targeted therapy, and stereotactic radiation therapy in the past 4½ years. While early detection didn't result in a cure for me, I am fortunate that my stage IV lung cancer was caught early. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true because we can "manage" the cancer as a chronic disease, at least for now. That means that, unlike most stage IV patients, it has not only extended my life, but also the quality in which I live it.

My story illustrates the importance, and urgency, of furthering lung cancer research and I continue to do to everything in my power to help move research forward. Last year LUNGevity nominated me to participate in the Department of Defense (DoD) Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP) peer review panel, and it was a great experience. Doctors and researchers need and really appreciate the patient perspective. We humanize the science and put a face to the disease.

When LUNGevity started, lung cancer was thought of as "one disease" and treatment was the same for everyone, but I have seen remarkable progress in the past 10 years. Despite experiencing the growth and advancements in lung cancer research over the past 12 years through my advocacy work, my experience with the DoD LCRP peer review program changed my outlook on the disease and I can honestly say I am even more hopeful for the future of lung cancer research.

The message I would like to send is there is HOPE for lung cancer patients. I could not have said that in good faith 5-7 years ago, but I whole heartedly believe it now. Because of advancements in lung cancer research, patients are living longer and the longer we live, the more time research has to make new discoveries and develop more diagnostic and treatment options.

Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016