The Power of Lung Cancer Social Media (#LCSM)

Today the Seattle Times published a guest op-ed piece co-authored by myself and Renée Klein, the President and CEO of the American Lung Association (ALA) of the Mountain Pacific.  You can read it here: Medicare should cover low-dose CT screening for lung cancer.

While I hope you’ll read it, that’s not why I’m blogging today.  I’m blogging because I want you to know something.

This op-ed piece was made possible by the power of Lung Cancer Social Media (#LCSM).

When I proposed co-authoring this piece to Renée, she enthusiastically agreed. However, we only had two days and 650 words in which to write it.  I knew the piece required a lot of facts to support the opinion, but which facts about lung cancer screening with low dose CT would have the most impact? Which facts were the most current?  How should we structure the facts to make our point within word count? And where on the web were the sources? The Seattle Times required links to sources before they would accept the piece.

The Lung Association had several necessary facts collected with source citations on one of their webpages.  Their researchers found a few more.  The rest were scattered all over the web. I didn’t have much time to find them, especially when I didn’t know which sources we needed yet.

As I sat staring at a blank Word document trying to compose my thoughts, a fellow founding member of the #LCSM Chat, Deana Hendrickson (@LungCancerFaces), texted me about another subject.  Then it hit me.  I had at my literal fingertips a ready-made community of passionate lung cancer patient advocates and healthcare professionals, each of whom had already demonstrated their desire to see Medicare cover lung cancer screening with low dose CT.  In fact, the #LCSM community had created a change.org petition on this subject in February.

So I made use of those connections. I sent emails and Twitter direct messages to other #LCSM Chat regulars: thoracic surgeon Dr. David Tom Cooke (@UCD_ChestHealth), radiation oncologist Dr. Matthew Katz (@subatomicdoc), and fellow advocates Deana, Laronica Conway (@louisianagirl91), and Andrea Borondy Kitts (@findlungcancer).  Even though they were located thousands of miles from me and were busy with their own jobs and lives, they all responded within an hour. Over the next 24 hours, they helped brainstorm the structure of the piece, provided links to sources they knew, and waded through Google for the additional facts needed to round out the argument.  Andrea carried the research one step further by discussing a difficult point with the lead author of a relevant journal article–he just happened to be in a meeting she attended that afternoon– and feeding me answers in real-time texts.  All of them also reviewed rough drafts and added insightful comments.  It’s as if we were intended to work this project together at that particular time.

Because of  the #LCSM community, my co-author, and my writing critique group (who just happened to be meeting the night I completed the first draft), 23 citations were thoroughly researched and four drafts including the final were completed in less than two working days.

I am amazed and humbled by the dedication displayed every day by the #LCSM community in the fight against lung cancer.

Thanks, everyone.  It truly takes a village.