by Deena Cook

We met Sonia “Sunny” Janin at the first Lung Cancer Alliance National Advocacy Summit we attended in September 2014. This event changed my life and Sunny was an important part of that change. There were five other women from Maryland in our group; we all had been diagnosed with stage 1 NSCLC. The majority of this group had been diagnosed by “accident.”  Several were never-smokers. A few, like me, had smoked when we were younger, quitting decades ago.

The one thing we had in common was the fact that we all knew how lucky we were to have had our lung cancer diagnosed early. We also were extremely motivated to inform our Congressional leaders that the stigma associated with lung cancer is suppressing equitable research funding for this disease and it must stop!

Sunny, a delightful and feisty lady, did not hold back when she spoke to a Representative on the dire situation surrounding lung cancer and the lack of research funding.  It was Sunny who recognized Senator Barbara Mikulski in the hallway outside of her offices just after we met with one of her staffers.  We quickly surrounded the Senator and gave a short “speech” on why lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, requires equitable research funding.  We also insisted on a photo with the Senator. Sunny is on the far left. She was very proud to have corralled the Senator!

Maryland constituents with Senator Mikulski

During the rainy 2015 National Advocacy Summit, it was Sunny who brought sunshine that day with her smile and enthusiasm to get things DONE in Washington! It is hard to believe that not long after we were together on that day, another primary lung cancer tumor was discovered during Sunny’s annual CT scan. This totally caught me by off guard, since Sunny had passed the “magic” five year threshold for cancer survivors and had graduated to annual screenings. Unfortunately, this time, Sunny’s lung cancer was diagnosed at stage 3.

Even last year at the 2016 Summit, although Sunny could not attend, she was with us every step of the way. We connected through texting and Facebook to ensure her presence was felt in our meetings on Capitol Hill.  Sunny has been a mighty, optimistic warrior for the last two years. Last month, I learned that we lost Sunny to lung cancer.

This September, at the 2017 Summit, we will be advocating for Sunny and ALL of the dear lung cancer patients who have passed and for ALL current lung cancer warriors who continue to fight.

Faith does not make things easy; it makes things possible! I have faith that through awareness and advocacy we WILL improve outcomes for all lung cancer patients. We owe this to the dear friends we have lost to this disease especially Sunny who will no doubt be with us in spirit!

Join Deena and other passionate lung cancer advocates at the 2017 National Advocacy Summit from September 27-28, 2017. Apply today!