Each month, the Cancer Policy Insitute will be profiling advocates who have been engaged in advocacy in their home state, their community, with elected officials, and more. Read on to learn more about our featured advocate for the month of April and his passion for promoting patient-centered, heart-driven compassionate care. If you are interested in learning more about policy, advocacy, and ways to get involved, sign up to be a part of the Grassroots Network!
Lee Tomlinson, Los Angeles, California
How did you get connected with the Cancer Support Community?
Having been in the entertainment industry, I was aware of Gilda’s Club when it was originally incorporated. Unfortunately, due to my idiotic male ego, I figured I did not need Gilda’s Club to get through this minor thing called cancer.
Big, big mistake. I only wish I had started coming to our local CSC sooner to utilize all their knowledge, expertise and loving kindness to benefit me during and after my diagnosis and treatment.
Did you have experience with advocacy in any capacity before joining CSC? (e.g. legislator meetings, hosting educational events, writing letters or calling, writing pieces for media outlets, posting on your personal Facebook, sharing information with your community, etc.)
The answer is yes and no, not before joining CSC. My dad and grandfather both died of cancer (both heavy and lifelong smokers) and I was treated for advanced cancer despite having never smoked. So, I care deeply about the health of people who are diagnosed with cancer and the medical professionals who treat them.
In what ways have you been involved with advocacy with CSC?
As mentioned above, I am eternally grateful for the incredible value CSC provided to me and to my then wife. It has been truly lifesaving and life-enhancing.
For most of the last 4+ years since my diagnosis, at CSC’s invitation, I have participated in numerous panels at major medical conferences representing the “patient’s point-of-view” in all matters related to compassionate care. Also, at CSC’s invitation I have delivered the Keynote address at their national fund-raising evening held in NYC and accompanied them on trips to Congress to lobby on behalf of cancer patients. And, lastly, I was honored to be interviewed and appear in a video produced by CSC to provide the “patient’s perspective” relative to their cancer diagnosis, treatment and hopefully recovery.
Is there one issue you are particularly passionate about?
Yes. My mission in life since soon after my diagnosis is to return patient-centered, heart-driven compassionate care back to its rightful place at the forefront of modern medicine. And in doing so, to help heal not only patients but also the too often-neglected medical professionals who treat them.
To that end, The C.A.R.E. Effect Movement was established to inspire and remind medical professionals that self-care is not selfish, but rather that it is essential for the health and well-being of not only themselves but their patients as well. When, and only when, healthcare professionals are 100% healthy, mentally, physically and emotionally, can they provide us with the compassion we so desperately need to heal regardless of our wounds or illnesses.
Clearly the CSC exists to help heal cancer patients and to provide them with the multitude of tools to help them heal mentally, physically and emotionally. . . as do I. Anything I can do to help CSC, they need only ask.
What is one tip or piece of advice you’d like to share with others who are interested in becoming an advocate?
Cancer patients, medical professionals and the World today are in a world of hurt. Socrates once said, “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a great battle.” Compassion heals and compassion begets compassion. By practicing compassion for one’s fellow man who suffers, we inspire more compassion, which inspires even more compassion and it need never end.
If you want to be a “patient advocate,” DO IT. We patients desperate need your help, as do our doctors and nurses, and so do you! The world needs your advocacy more now that ever to survive and prosper once more.
Tell us something fun about yourself—any hobbies, interests, or fun facts?
I’m an addict. For adrenalin. Due to that addiction and some bad luck, I’ve been hospitalized in 5 different countries. I have broken over a dozen bones, some as many as three times. Two near fatal motorcycle accidents. Had my thumb pulled off and toe cut off. Been rescued off the top of Mount Kenya while climbing it and from the Dead Sea after a scuba diving accident to name just a few.
I’ve owned a famous Hollywood studio, built another, produced a decade of award winning, network, prime-time television specials, was once a world-ranked tennis professional and scratch golfer.
And, I was able to cross off one of my top bucket list items when I delivered a TedTalk at the invitation of Eli Lilly & Co that was broadcast to their employees globally.