By: Jenny White, lung cancer survivor and advocate
Did they really say that?
So, what is the first thing you think you would say after your surgeon tells you, “It was lung cancer?” Well, the first thing I said was, “WTF!?” Or at least that’s what I imagine I said when I saw how many tubes were coming out of my chest while in recovery after a video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) that was performed to find out what was growing in the right upper lobe of my lung!!
Because I had no risk factors for this diagnosis, obviously, my next move was to google “LUNG CANCER.” How did it happen to me? I thought I was doing everything right.
I was living in the healthy lane. I watched my diet, exercised, drank in moderation and was even training for the first Women’s Half Marathon in Nashville, TN that occurred just 10 days before my surgery.
But, how did this happen to me? I didn’t smoke.
Anyone can get lung cancer
Well, as it turns out, if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. I also quickly realized that having it diagnosed at stage 1 and removed surgically was rare in the scheme of lung cancer-only about 17% of the time.
The facts made it clear to me that I had to use my voice to bring awareness to the stigma of lung cancer. The only reason my lung cancer was found early was because I gassed myself while cleaning a bathroom with bleach and ammonia. That serendipitous moment caused my physician to order a chest x-ray which led to the radiologist noticing a small “something” which we watched over the next 10 months. It grew. It was removed. I am now 6 1/2 years’ lung cancer free.
But I wanted to DO something! I know how lucky I am. Where was MY “pink army?” I wanted to enlist. I thought it made perfect sense to check out the websites of what I thought were the major players in lung cancer to see what advocacy opportunities existed. Sadly, the only mention of lung cancer was under smoking cessation.
Lung Cancer Alliance is amazing!
With a little more searching, I found Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) which is based out of Washington, DC. I love that their mission is to advocate for more lung cancer research funding from the federal government. Through their “Day on the Hill”, I get to tell my story, educate my representatives and ask for their help in further funding lung cancer research.
LCA gives me a platform to fulfill my mission of using my voice for all those diagnosed too late. They also helped fulfill one of my desires when they partnered with the BMS Foundation to bring a lung cancer support group to Gilda’s Club of Nashville. It was a dream come true because all I ever really wanted was to connect with other survivors and share this unwanted journey.
Serendipity! Maybe it was God working through stupid. Maybe I was always a cause waiting to happen. Either way, I’m just happy to be here.