When LUNG FORCE Hero Ellen S.’s mom was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in late 2013 she couldn’t believe it. At the time, Ellen lived almost 1000 miles away from home, but with the doctor giving her mom only about six months to live, she decided to move home. Back in Louisiana, her mother had begun chemotherapy and after a few treatments, she had a bad reaction that landed her in the hospital. For two and a half weeks her family worried as she remained in a coma. But then she miraculously woke and, with renewed determination, told her family she was not done fighting the cancer. 

"Her job didn’t provide health insurance,” Ellen said. “When she ended up in the hospital, the staff helped us apply for healthcare coverage, which is the only way she was able to afford the very expensive cancer treatments.” This coverage allowed Ellen’s mother to begin radiation, and for the next seven months, she enjoyed time with her family. 

When she passed away in February of 2015, Ellen felt hopeless. She couldn’t imagine getting married or having and raising children without her mother by her side. She knew she needed to do something to prevent other families from feeling the pain she was experiencing. “I had to have a purpose, so I started googling and found that a LUNG FORCE Walk was taking place near me that September,” she said. It would be the first of many events that she has attended and helped facilitate. “I keep doing more because I feel like I am making a difference and honoring my mom’s memory,” she said.

In 2017, Ellen attended her first LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. She shared her story with her members of Congress and saw how powerful her testimony could be. “Anyone can quote statistics and scientific information, but I feel like it is not until they can put a human face on it and see the raw emotions that the message really sinks in. They need to understand how much it affects their constituents, so I encourage anyone who attends to be as honest as possible,” Ellen explained. 

Ellen focused on asking for funding for research and support on any bills that may cross the representative’s desk. She has participated in other Advocacy Day events throughout the years. When she speaks with government officials, she is not only focused on asking for research funding, but she is also interested in finding lifelong advocates who will support lung cancer-related legislation that crosses their desks. 

The devastation of lung cancer continues to touch Ellen’s life. Besides knowing five close friends whose families have also been touched by this disease, just last November her godmother received a stage three lung cancer diagnosis. “Thanks to money raised in the nine years since I lost my mother, there have been advancement in research and more treatment options that hopefully mean better outcomes for people like my godmother. But there is still so much work to be done,” she said. 

On March 29, LUNG FORCE Heroes from across the country will come together for the first in-person Advocacy Day event since 2019. Together, they will ask members of Congress to support $51 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $11.6 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and to preserve and protect Medicaid.

Visit LUNGFORCE.org on March 29 and join us by calling your members of Congress to support Heroes like Ellen. 

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