In our April Patient Advocacy Testimonial, hear from Kristin McJunkins, a cancer survivor and patient advocate, about her journey to get involved in patient advocacy and why she continues to work to educate herself on the drug development process to improve patient outcomes.
ProgressforPatients.org Patient Advocate Testimonial
Kristin McJunkins, Survivor and Patient Advocate
Tell us who you are:
KM: My name is Kristin McJunkins. I work in higher education and I’m a Stage 3A melanoma survivor and a patient advocate.
How did you become involved as a patient advocate?
KM: In 2008, I was diagnosed with Stage 3A melanoma and had two surgeries to remove the cancer and surrounding lymph nodes. Since then, I’ve gotten involved in more cancer organizations and have also served on research panels as an advocate reviewer.
Tell us a story you think patients and advocates may need to hear based on your experience.
KM: Part of the reason I became an advocate was that for me, survivor guilt was real. I’ve lost many family members and friends to different types of cancers over the years. Advocating for research, preventative screenings and inclusion in clinical trials has really helped me feel like I’m making a positive impact so that we can really remember the ones that we’ve lost.
Why do you think the FDA and drug development process is important to understand?
KM: The drug development process can be really complicated. When people are diagnosed, they may not really have any understanding of what they’re getting involved in. I think the more that we can educate ourselves about the process, we can be more informed consumers, so that we can make the best decisions for our care.
Why do you think it’s so important for us to take an interest in clinical research as survivors, caregivers, and advocates?
KM: It’s really important, because we never know if a treatment is going to help us if we participate in a clinical trial. Even if a clinical trial doesn’t help an individual patient, the lessons learned can help researchers benefit future patients across the health care spectrum.
Why is it so essential to continue to advocate for future advancements and treatments?
KM: I still participate in my melanoma support group. Even after all these years since my diagnosis, however, when I tell my story to newly diagnosed patients, they can’t relate because they now have treatment options, and this is because of clinical trials. This means that we’re making progress in research that will benefit all patients.
Kristin McJunkins is a valuable member of the melanoma community, working closely with the Melanoma Research Foundation, and currently serves as a Friends of Cancer Research (Friends) Advisory Advocate after her participation in the ProgressforPatients.org Advocacy Education Program and other initiatives at Friends.