Hugo and his wife.

By Hugo Rizzo

You never really know how devastating an illness can be until it touches your own life. That’s what I learned on March 20, 2015, my brother’s birthday, when the celebration of that milestone was forever changed with the words, “You have lung cancer.” From that day forward, his life and the lives of our entire family were never the same.

My brother’s journey with lung cancer was brief. He endured 4 months and 4 days of the most grueling treatment until God called him home. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was my blood and someone that I admired. He was also a father and to his 88 year-old mother who was there to kiss him one last time before he passed away he was the same son that she once cradled in her arms. Even at the end, his thoughts were not about his illness, they were about his family. His last words to my wife as she stood next to him crying were, “Please don’t cry, I’ll be fine.”

When people ask me why I advocate for lung cancer research, the answer is quite simple; I’ve seen how devastating lung cancer can be. I want those at risk for lung cancer to have the opportunity for early detection so their cancer can be caught when it’s most treatable. I want every lung cancer patient to have access to new treatments so they may have the best quality of life while dealing with their diagnosis. No, I don’t begrudge the funding for research given to other cancers. I celebrate the achievements and the advances because any win against this disease is a good one, but it is time for us realize that lung cancer is a national emergency that deserves more research funding.

Attending the 2017 National Advocacy Summit gave me the opportunity to knock on the doors of members of Congress to tell them how lung cancer impacts families, remind them that over 400 Americans die every single day from this disease and educate them about the desperate need to fund more research.  I’m coming back this year because I know that as long as we work together there is hope and this is what we take with us every time we bring our shared experiences to Capitol Hill. I encourage you to join us to be the voice of those in our community who cannot make it to Washington, DC and to honor the memories of people, like my brother, who have been taken from us by this disease.

We need all the help we can get.

Join Hugo and other survivors and advocates in Washington, DC on July 10 -12 for the 10th Anniversary National Advocacy Summit. Go here for more information!