It's midnight on the east coast of the US. Gone are the witches of Halloween. It's time to roll up our sleeves and make as much noise this month about the LACK of color as we did last month over the pink haze. Breast cancer EDUCATION month is in the books.
Now, it's time to stand beside those for whom few are willing to speak. Few, that is, until Deana Hendrickson took to twitter using the name @LungCancerFaces and took the lung cancer community by storm. She single-handedly began a campaign to shine a light where there is only darkness. She has started a movement on twitter and in a very short time, has built a solid community. She is determined and I am awestruck by her will and her tenacity.
I am honored to present Deana, kicking off Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2013. I'm all in. Be on the lookout for information on twitter which I'm sure will be appearing throughout the month under #LCAM2013.
Let me introduce myself. I’m not a lot different than most of you. I’m about as average as they come: Nice husband, good kids. I give to charity, recycle, hate ironing with a passion. I’ve put on a few pounds. Nothing out of the ordinary.
All in all, I’m very happy with my life, except for the fact that I AM MAD AS ALL HELL.
When did this anger problem start? Oh, about the time my mom was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Funny thing is, once I got over the shock, it wasn’t the diagnosis that pissed me off. It was what I learned about the disease. Could the Internet be to blame for my problem?
What did I read? I read about the incredibly lousy odds she had to live beyond a year, unless she had an actionable genetic mutation (She didn’t. She died less than 10 months post diagnosis). That tore my heart out, but it didn’t put me in my current state. Ah, but then I read about the almost bizarre lack of federal research funding for lung cancer. Hmm, I thought, could there be a connection between the two?
At that point, I was only somewhat disturbed, but not completely off the cliff. Then I looked at that stupid graph comparing federal research dollars spent per cancer death. Colorectal 4 times as much? Prostate 8.5 times as much? Breast 14 times as much? Wait, but lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the US and the world. 160,000 people die every year in the US alone. Huh? I went off the deep end.
After I came to, I read about the undeserved stigma that people with lung cancer face. I like to call it the “Did you smoke?” factor. Forget about rude. I can handle rude. The real issue is that stigma kills: It keeps research funding for lung cancer low because people think that if everyone just quits smoking, lung cancer will miraculously go away.
Ask Linnea Duff Life and Breath if that’s true.
Ask Janet Freeman-Daily Gray Connections
Ask Jessica Rice Stage IV
Ask Tori Tomalia A Lil Lytnin'
Ask Emily Bennett Taylor EmBen Kicks Cancer
Ask Kim Wieneke Aquarius v. Cancer
They’re all never-smokers with metastatic lung cancer. Ask them.
And my mother? She smoked. She started when she came to this country as a teenage Holocaust refugee. She wanted to assimilate. Everyone smoked back then. Even Doctors. I can deal with her death on a philosophical level, not because she was a smoker and therefore deserved to die of lung cancer, but because she got to see her six grandchildren all grow up, which is a privilege denied to many. I can live with that.
BUT, if someone out there thinks my mother was somehow “asking for it” because she smoked, they need to think again. She didn’t deserve it any more than the terrific ladies I’ve mentioned above. No one deserves this horrible disease. No one wants it. No one asks for it. NO ONE.
So, now you know why I’m so damned mad all the time. Some of you probably think I need help. You’re right. I do need help. Your help. Today is November 1, the first day of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Don’t look away. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t forget them. Please read their stories. See their faces. They’re no different than you and me. Help me get the word out on the street about lung cancer. Lung Cancer Awareness Month needs the public service announcements, the media coverage, the merchandising, the attention. These people deserve to have every damn building lit up in their honor. Why did the Empire State Building turn them down? Where is the big White House ceremony (Yeah, I know it’s already white)? You get the picture. Help me help them. Together we can move mountains. I really do believe that. I hope you do, too.
I do believe this can be done and I do believe we can change the stigma and begin to an education campaign. This space is open to anyone who might like to share anything on behalf of or in support of the lung cancer community. Send me an email or post a comment here and I will be in touch.
And, the answer to the question, "Did (s)he smoke?" .....
It goes like this.....
"The truth is, (s)he has lungs. That's really all you need."
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