“Gina is currently serving as the President to ALK Positive, a 1,500 member support and advocacy group that is helping extend the lives and quality of care for people living with lung cancer. Gina is a bright ball of energy and hope, caring most about others and their plight rather than just her own disease. Gina has unwavering positivity and always looks for ways around fear and limitation. She’s a person that draws respect because her inspiration comes from her heart. Gina is a loving mom, wife, and fierce advocate against the deadliest disease. She’s a hero to many and there’s not a soul that doesn’t want to be associated with her.”
-Bill Westlake, Gina’s nominator
Can you describe the most difficult thing you experienced when you were diagnosed with lung cancer?
The most difficult thing for me was telling the people I loved. It was so hard to watch their reactions. I would call and they would be cheery and happy to hear from me and then I had to tell them about my diagnosis. They followed by a million question most of them I had no idea how to answer. It crushed me to see them cry after hearing the news.Telling my children was so hard. They were 7 and 11. We have always been very open and honest with them about most things in life. We were very open with them about this as well. To see their fear and confusion was very hard. Most of all, it crushes me to see my husband hurt. My husband has always been a pillar of strength and security in our family. To see him cry in fear, anger, and helplessness was devastating to me.
What does the term “survivor” mean to you?
I may have a broader view of survivor than most. Cancer is a monster. It can take away your physical ability, your comfort, your finances, your joy and your hope. When you are alive and have been through the devistation of cancer, you are a survivor. I believe even though I still have cancer, I am a survivor. I believe my husband and children are also survivors. Cancer can take away so much, but when you live through it you can become stronger, more determined, more faithful, more loving, more forgiving. You can become better and that’s when you truly become a survivor.
Why did you choose to fundraise for LUNGevity in particular?
LUNGevity listened to patients. They gave our social media group a way to fund research for our specific cancer and then allowed us to use that money to be involved in the grant process. Panels of patients were allowed to review research grant applicants along side some of the top doctors in the country because of LUNGevity. They allowed us to have a voice. LUNGevity had knowledge and resources that they shared with us to help us in choosing the research projects that would most impact our lives in the shortest amount of time. Most of us who reviewed the grant applicants had advanced stage, metastatic lung cancer so we had a great sense of urgency. We needed to fund the research that was going to impact us quickest. LUNGevity allowed us to do that. They really listened to us.
What impact do you hope your fundraising efforts will make?
I hope my fund raising efforts fund a cure for lung cancer. It may seem like a naive, lofty goal, but my eyes are set on that goal and nothing else will suffice. If no one ever believes that we CAN find a cure, we never will. We have made so many advances just in the 3.5 years since my diagnosis. Research is moving science and technology faster than it ever has before. The answer is out there, we just have to continue to push to get it. As long as I’m alive I will continue to do everything within my abilities to reach that goal.
LUNGevity Spotlight is a way to highlight people living with lung cancer, caregivers, volunteers, and fundraisers who are making a positive impact in the LUNGevity community. We hope that their stories will inspire and encourage many more to get involved.
If you know someone in the LUNGevity community whom you'd like us to Spotlight, please nominate them here.