The simplest way to define “pay it forward” is that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead. 

When I was first diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma (LMS) in 2002, I received so much help from my fellow LMS survivors. Their kindness and help came at a time when I was most vulnerable and alone. I’ll never forget the first person to reach out to me when I shared my story in the online support group. It meant so much to me when others joined in to answer my questions and help me get the treatments I needed. No one could have given me more heartfelt advice and support than someone else who had been in my shoes as a terrified, newly diagnosed patient. They educated me, pushed me and gave me courage. Their advice, I believe, saved my life. Twice.

I felt instantly indebted to them.

Inspired, and armed with new research skills and a basic understanding of LMS, I vowed to “pay it forward” and help other newly diagnosed patients. I felt it was now my responsibility, as many of my mentors passed away. Who else would help them? After all, I had attained all this knowledge from those who battled LMS before me. I witnessed and learned from their mistakes and successes. It would be wrong to just turn my back and walk away from those just diagnosed, who were desperate for information and help.

Year by year, the newbies kept coming… always with the same questions and needs. We shared what we could with them. In 2016, I created the LMS Boot Camp videos to get the information out in a more consistent way.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than when I see others take the baton. They are patients and caregivers who are also grateful to those who reached out to them when they were new, and now they “pay it forward.” They become leaders and mentors. Their greatest gifts is their knowledge and encouragement.

In the 2000 movie, “Pay it Forward”, which was based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, young Trevor McKinney explains it this way.  “When I do something nice for three people, they each pay it forward to three more people. Those nine people continue to pay it forward to another 18 people and so forth.” He sets off a pay it forward movement within his community. This has happened in the LMS community too.

So I ask each one of you, if you have received help or benefited from the efforts of someone in the LMS community, please pay it forward in some way. You can support someone who has scanxiety, contribute to this blog, volunteer for LMSDR or just simply make a donation now. The LMS community was built by individuals who cared for each other and future patients as well. Our success is proof that “Together we are stronger.”

Keep paying it forward!

Sharon Anderson MSW
President of Leiomyosarcoma Support & Direct Research Foundation