By Jon Filbert
Donna Summer passed away a couple of days ago and there has been an endless stream of media coverage on her life and her death. She was a great performer and her songs were an imprint on my childhood. In her 60s, she still had a lot of life to live. She was taken from her family and fans way too soon.
Before she died, Ms. Summer and I had something in common- lung cancer.
So many articles and reports have come out this week about the type of cancer Ms. Summer died from. Many in the mainstream media failed to mention the cancer type at all, and today other news sources are writing about the lung cancer that “non smokers” get.
It’s my understanding from watching the news reports that Donna Summer and her family didn’t want anyone to know she was battling lung cancer. Maybe they didn’t want people to think that she smoked …because why? People who smoke deserve cancer and deserve to die from it? I hope that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately a lot of people who don’t know a lot about lung cancer subscribe to that theory. That’s the stigma facing people with lung cancer and that line of thinking is what has kept lung cancer desperately lacking for research dollars.
Lung cancer is supposed to be an old person’s disease; a disease that only affects elderly people who smoked their lives away and lived an unhealthy life. right? Wrong.
Lung cancer can affect anyone regardless of gender, age or smoking history. I’m 35. And while I wasn’t a health nut I was young and relatively healthy when I was diagnosed 3 years ago with stage 4 lung cancer. When people ask me if I smoked I let them know my cancer is genetic, but that doesn’t mean I’m any better than people who develop lung cancer after years of smoking…they deserve the same chance at survival as I do.
Let’s stop the blame and the stigma of lung cancer. That’s the only way to show people that anyone can get lung cancer, like me.
In November 2011 I attended my first lung cancer event. It was called Breathe Deep DFW and it was the first time I’d ever met another lung cancer survivor. There were so many people and they were all there to raise awareness and life saving funds for lung cancer research.
This May, during Lung Cancer Hope Month, I attended the LUNGevity HOPE Summit for lung cancer survivors. This conference is the only conference of it’s kind specifically for lung cancer survivors and it was the largest gathering of survivors ever!
I felt empowered and hope-filled. The diversity of people in that room was amazing and no one asked anyone else if they had ever smoked.
It simply didn’t matter.
We were celebrating survivorship and the importance of research so that one day others who developed lung cancer would have a better chance to survive.
Ms Summer and I have lung cancer in common but I’m not keeping it a secret.
I am the face of lung cancer.
I’m asking you to care and to join us.
About Lung Cancer
• 1 in 14 Americans is diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime
• Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, regardless of gender or ethnicity
• Lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer and more than three times as many men as prostate cancer
• About 55% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers
• Only 16% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive 5 years or more, BUT if it’s caught before it spreads, the chance for 5-year survival improves to 52%
About LUNGevity Foundation
The mission of LUNGevity Foundation is to have a meaningful impact on improving lung cancer survival rates, ensure a higher quality of life for lung cancer patients, and provide a community for those impacted by lung cancer.
Through the support of critical research into the early detection and successful treatment of lung cancer, as well as providing information, resources and a community to patients and caregivers, LUNGevity is creating and sharing hope for cures, treatments and enhanced quality of life for lung cancer patients.
LUNGevity seeks to inspire the nation to commit to ending lung cancer.
For more information, please visit www.lungevity.org.