Summer F

Summer F., PA

I became an advocate overnight with the birth of my twins. Born four months premature, one of our sons left us not long after his birth. I’ve spent the last twenty-two years fighting to help my son overcome the adversity that accompanies severe cerebral palsy- educationally, medically and socially.  

I had experiences from my own childhood that prepared me to navigate medical advocacy. My father spent his career working for a pharmaceutical company as a Medical Science Liaison, collaborating with oncology teams to facilitate investigative studies and clinical trial development. We talked about cancer at the dinner table like a mechanic’s family would talk about cars. Our family was well versed in cancer lingo and our vocabulary included words like benign, malignant, metastatic, and remission. All the while we were shown what words like perseverance, dedication and determination looked like in real life. My father was in a heart-breaking industry, but he was full of hope. 

When my pandemic cough continued to worsen, I never suspected it would be lung cancer. I had no risk factors, had been teaching fitness classes since college and instilled a healthy lifestyle in my children. Although I was still able to transfer and carry my then 19-year-old son around our home, my shortness of breath was causing me to struggle. It all came to a head in June 2020 when I had a CT scan and was immediately sent to the emergency room. One of my lungs was crushed by pleural fluid. Once the fluid was removed, both lungs and the surrounding lymph nodes displayed a portrait splattered with tumors. I caught the pulmonologist off guard as I asked for benign reasons for this and questioned malignancy and metastasis. I never suspected conversations about cancer from my youth would apply to me, a healthy forty-four-year-old with an active lifestyle and no risk factors.

The first few weeks of my diagnosis were a whirlwind, and although my health was deteriorating, my concern was for my family. As my stage IV lung cancer diagnosis was confirmed- my father coached my husband and myself, as well as our family and friends, about our next steps. Ironically, I always feared that my father’s career was preparing him for something more. I would have never guessed it would be to assist me in the fight of my life.

Once on a course of treatment and stable, my father and I both felt compelled to give back and dove into lung cancer advocacy, serving in a multitude of ways. My experience with research and advocacy for my son has now turned into educating others that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. The dedication, commitment, and perseverance I have spent a lifetime witnessing in both my father and my child have led me here, to the American Lung Association. I am so honored to be able to participate in Advocacy Week and be a part of bringing patient needs to the forefront. 

Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | May 07, 2024
Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | May 15, 2024