When I was 22 I was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer. I had two surgical procedures and years of close follow ups, but I went on with my life and never spoke about it with anyone…I mean I was 22…my friends didn’t want to talk or hear about anything like that.
When I was 29, my seemingly healthy, never sick dad lost his voice. The weird thing was he didn’t have a sore throat and he didn’t feel sick. Just a little back pain. A trip to his GP, an ENT and eventually a pulmonologist lead to an extensive stage diagnosis of lung cancer with metastasis to the liver. The two tumors in his left lung had paralyzed his vocal cord which is why he lost his voice.
At that time, not knowing anything about lung cancer, I thought…well he can do what I did. We caught it early as soon as he had a symptom! So he can have surgery…maybe at the worst chemotherapy, but he’ll be ok, just like I was.
What I didn’t know at that time that there was no early detection for lung cancer, my dad wasn’t a candidate for surgery and chemotherapy and radiation would be palliative at best. I was his caregiver for 11 months and 21 days.
10 years ago my family received very little compassion and there was no support for people affected by lung cancer in my area and really very little support nationally. So we set out to change that. I co-created the first ever online lung cancer support community for people affected by lung cancer. Today we have over 10,000 registered members and it is a proud service of LUNGevity. (www.LUNGevity.org)
LUNGevity also offers incredible online resources—so that no matter where you are in the world, whether or not your hospital offers an in person lung cancer support group, all you have to do is log in or call us and you’ll never go thru your lung cancer journey alone.
I’ve been on staff with LUNGevity since 2010 and I’m the director of support and advocacy.
I want people to know that lung cancer is the deadliest cancer killer. It kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, pancreatic cancer COMBINED. There is still no early detection test. By the time there are symptoms the cancer is usually in stage 4. Treatment options are limited because of the lack of funding for research and the survival rates are very low.
About 435 people die from lung cancer each and every day. That's like a jumbo jet crashing to the ground---every single day.
I want people to know that anyone, regardless of age, gender or even smoking history can get lung cancer. If you breathe, you can get lung cancer too- even if you've never smoked a cigarette. And for those that did smoke- they deserve treatments and a chance to live too.
It's time to stop the stigma and join together to fight lung cancer. It's time to fund research so that we can find early detection and targeted therapies and support people and help them live with this disease until it can be stopped....
It's time to talk about lung cancer, share lung cancer stories and spread HOPE, so that others can survive.
I write about lung cancer, advocacy, life, end of life, health issues and philanthropy.
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