by Randall Broad
This past weekend I had the privilege to attend the third annual LUNGevity Hope Summit (HS) in Washington DC. For those unfamiliar with the event, this is where LUNGevity hosts a two-day (plus an opening evening mixer) for 120 of your closest lung cancer (LC) friends and colleagues. Being my second HS, that makes me HS alum. A chevron I wear proudly on my lapel (or anywhere else it may attach).
Last year being my (and approximately fifty others) first, I was pleasantly surprised to see our numbers at this event double in size. I realize this sounds off to say I’m glad to see we doubled in size seeing as to grow this number requires association to either having or caring for LC; a gift you wouldn’t subject your deepest darkest enemy to. What I mean to say here is IF you have LC and/or care for someone afflicted with LC and are capable of flying to DC for a weekend, a better and more enlightened group of individuals you will most likely never encounter.
I’ve had a few days to reflect upon the experience from this year before submitting my thoughts this go around. Having done so and let ‘Hugs for Lungs’ moment’s sink in, I am now in a better position to provide first hand input from the experience.
For me, it was wonderful to see many of last year’s attendees. Honestly speaking, this was my shining highlight of this year’s event. For the newbies (as Katie the amazing Brown so affectionately refers to the first time Summiter’s), there is much emotion behind this aspect of evaluation as there were several of last year attendee’s not in attendance this go around. Not because they didn’t raise the necessary travel funds, couldn’t afford the trip, or were busy doing something else. They were not with us because they are no longer with us. The cold hard reality many of us face on a day-to-day basis living with the disease. When Andrea shared this aspect in her opening remarks and was overcome with emotion, I know I speak for the other alum’s, we were right there with her.
I will forego and spare the reader a detailed and formal evaluation of the Summit as we were all given the opportunity to provide this onsite. Doing so would prove redundant and immaterial. That said, I do want to draw attention to a piece of the program that I for one found to be extremely informative, worthwhile and most of all, enlightening. I’m referring to the second day morning presentation with David Carbone, MD PhD.
Carbone proved once more how much of a comedian God can be. After all, here’s a guy who dedicates his entire life and being to dealing with and treating LC only to become a fellow recipient of a cancer diagnosis. As if he is so empathetic towards his patients he contracts the disease by osmosis. And then God has the audacity to have him not only experience the very treatment he prescribes but keeps him alive long enough to empathize, continue to treat and research and gifted enough to share the experience. I’m literally rolling in the aisles on this one…Oh my, God you should be doing stand-up!
I must say, when the good doctor shared the gory details of his treatment, I could have probably done without the depth therein. After all, most of us in the room have lived that horror and the not so gentle reminder of the garden hose sticking out of my side draining pink lung-aide into the silver trough below my wheeled and propped up hospital bed (I’ve done my fair share of meditation to let go of that one). The depth of description however did ensure his attentive audience knew full well this doctor is different because he has literally walked the cancer walk. A two-step I believe few practicing oncologists neither knows nor cares to know the actual steps to. Doctor Carbone leads the orchestra on this one and the lung cancer world is better off having the baton in his all too knowing and capable hand.
This is such a special gift that has been bestowed upon Carbone it’s hard to fathom. To know what he knows through his years of studying and learning along with what the LC patient knows from personal experience is not to be taken lightly. This combined with the ability to continue to work in the very field is extraordinary to say the least. And to continue to get up every morning, pull his pants on a leg at a time and work in this field is nothing short of amazing and a demonstration of fortitude and dedication. I for one am a fan and could have listened to him present both sides of the equation for the better part of the entire day. The question and answer period would most certainly still be active if we continued in the same room.
Without a doubt, the number one take-away for me was not centered on the topics of EGFR mutations, ALK, clinical trials, types of disease, etc. No, for me, the biggy was him sharing snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef, his family, his personal photos, and his living life. This is the clarion bell ALL LC patient’s share and knows the precious truth that life is short and if given a second chance, you take it. Pure and simple and this aspect of his presentation put it all into perspective. I absolutely loved it!
And to know that he’s on the LUNGevity Scientific Advisory Board once more puts feathers in their cap and arrows in their proverbial quiver. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by such uncovering’s around this organization, but I do. LUNGevity is so buttoned down you need four thumbs and an equal number of index fingers to take off the gown.
In closing, to say it was an uplifting and memorable weekend goes without saying. What I will say however is what occurred on the flight home Sunday night; I was seated in an exit row on the aisle of a completely full Boeing 737. I put on my headphones and cranked up my iTunes to full force and played every rock till you drop song I could find. In the process, I guess I got a little carried away as people in front and side kept giving me a look. Four songs in, the guy two seats over reached across my neighbor and tapped my shoulder politely with a smile and said, ‘I promise not sing to you if you promise not sing to me.’ He was even wearing headphones…I guess I was a bit jazzed from the weekend.
I look forward to seeing everyone next year and sing you a song as well.
For more information on LUNGevity’s HOPE Summit visit www.LUNGevity.org/hopesummit