RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Raleigh woman who survived an often-deadly form of cancer is giving back to patients fighting the same disease. Her work just won her national recognition and a big award for a local nonprofit.
When doctors diagnosed Tomma Hargraves with lung cancer, she was given about a 15 percent chance of living through it.
“My husband got online, and he looked at the statistics and he was planning my funeral,” Hargraves recalled.
But this month, she’s celebrating 15 years since her diagnosis, and she isn’t just living, she’s working to make life better for other lung cancer patients, helping them get the support and treatment they need.
She volunteers at UNC’s lung cancer clinic and the nonprofit Lung Cancer Initiative.
“I think I’m supposed to do something with my survivorship,” she explained.
Working with Lung Cancer Initiative, Hargraves created a program to provide gas cards to help patients get to their treatments. So far, she says they’ve given out more than 2,500 gas cards.
Little did she know her efforts would be nominated for a national award.
“I kept these emails from these people about being a finalist for this award, and I thought it was SPAM, so I kind of ignored it,” she said.
It turns out, it was real. The Cancer Community Awards, or C2 Awards recognize people helping those affected by cancer.
The national awards are given by AstraZeneca and Scientific American Custom Media.
Hargraves received the Catalyst for Change Award for improving access to care for people in underserved populations.
“We have a lot of patients to come from rural areas and we have to get them in the hospital so they can have treatment,” she said.
Hargraves hopes winning this award will make a big difference for people fighting lung cancer. As a result of her winning, Lung Cancer Initiative was awarded $50,000.
“To me, giving back for patients is what it’s all about,” she said. ” So people can be as lucky as I was.”