Jennifer Windrum

Adversity: Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer

Advocacy: Created social media campaign to raise lung cancer awareness

“[Advocacy] is very cathartic, very fulfilling, because you connect with others going through the same thing. To have a network that has all of these components is very, very powerful.”

Jennifer Windrum’s immediate response when she learned seven years ago that her mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer, despite having never been a smoker, was shock, sadness and concern. She was doing public relations work for a medical center at the time and knew the grim statistics about lung cancer: That it is the No. 1 cancer killer among men and women, that the five-year survival rate remains at just 15 %, yet funding for research is lower than for any other form of cancer. “There is a huge awareness issue here,” says Jennifer, a former TV news reporter. “First of all, that people are hanging on to the stigma that only smoking causes lung cancer, which is not the case. So I went into reporter mode and thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ I felt absolutely compelled to try to increase awareness and funding for lung cancer and to erase the stigma.”

In 2009, Jennifer created the WTF (Where’s the Funding) for Lung Cancer social media campaign, using her website (wtflungcancer.com), along with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms to tell the true story of lung cancer by sharing her mother’s personal journey and creating a forum for others to share theirs. “A lot of people have really taken to my mother’s story and identify with it,” Jennifer says. When she started the campaign she began with a blog and a Facebook page that quickly drew 1,000 fans, and now tops 6,000. “A lot of people were saying, ‘WTF? Where is the funding? What the heck is going on here?’ ” she says. “The bottom line is that if we want to truly make a dent in reducing cancer death, then lung cancer can no longer be ignored.” Jennifer says the fact that the five-year survival rate for lung cancer hasn’t improved in 40 years is an indication that lung cancer has been neglected. “But now, through social media, you can become an advocate,” she says. “You do have a voice and it matters a whole heck of a lot. Anyone can create content and be a newsmaker of their own. It’s very empowering and it’s very needed.”

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