Lung cancer is the largest cancer killer, and those who are surviving are beginning to demand a cure. Like me.
I’m fed up. In the two years that I have been diagnosed, we’ve seen few new discoveries and fewer donations than many cancers that don’t kill as many patients. The most we get is some new chemo that works for a short period of time, can give us horrible side effects, and yet we can’t see a cure in the near future.
Additionally I’m not sure that all of the charities that are out there are truly working for the benefit of finding a cure for lung cancer. Many talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met many people out who work tirelessly for their charity of choice and yet I don’t even see a lung cancer area of the new Princeton Hospital or know how many people or families have loved ones in Mercer County with lung cancer. It’s kind of taboo. I’ve always urged friends and relatives when they send a check for a donation to always put on the notation part “To Be Used for Lung Cancer Research and Grants Only.” I don’t know if that request is honored.
Many of the cancer charities use donated monies for everything from operations to mailings, yet in truth, only some use most of the monies collected for direct research grants. I guess I’m hoping a charity can become more cost effective. Judging from the cure rate and with the economy at its worst, I think the first line item of any charity budget should be: 1. Grants and Research.
I have had a PR and ad agency for 30 years in New Jersey and am and have always been a non-smoker. I was totally shocked when the head and back pain I had for six months turned out to be metastasis of a tumor on my lung. Had my oncologist, Dr. Peter Yi, not been as astute, I probably would not have had the ability to walk and to continue my life. Additionally we now know that lung cancer can come from an inherited gene, and so my primary doctor should have been very careful to review my history and the fact that my mother died of lung cancer at age 60 to possibly explain some of the weird symptoms I was having. We are still not positive that I have this inherited gene. A person knows her own body, and while I knew something was wrong, I didn’t know where to look.
I have also been helped, like other survivors and their caretakers, by a group called Inspire. We use a community bulletin board on the Lung Cancer Alliance website (www.lungcanceralliance.org) to post questions, answer problems, and vent our feelings.
One post on the Inspire website recently started by a women said “I miss me” and talked about how much her life has changed since she got lung cancer. Many others also posted that they’d like to be the person they were before the cancer was diagnosed, and yet others felt that just as in war, the diagnosis has made the group ask for friends and relatives to work harder, learn more and try diligently to urge doctors, researchers, and charities and government officials to push harder for a cure.
November is Lung Cancer Month, and some attention is being paid to it. But lung cancer has been the stepchild of cancers because sometimes people blame those who smoked for “bringing it on themselves.” But at least 15 percent of those newly diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.
Even worse, since many children take up smoking as a social habit, young people are beginning to join the ranks of those who get lung cancer themselves.
Since genetic mutations have been seen as a new trend in defining lung cancers in people who have never smoked, researchers believe that some lung cancers are caused by mutations that may have been caused in persons who have a heredity factor. This new targeted therapy approach has brought drugs like Trachea, Alimta, Tarceva and Gemzar into the forefront.
But the main problem still seems to be that there is no early diagnosis available to those who come in contact with the disease.
Dr. Yi, my oncologist, feels that there has to be a tremendous amount of money raised to fund research that will both identify the cancer early and find drugs that continue to fight and not lose their potency. He believes that finding a good quality of life for lung cancer patients may be just as important as identifying the cause. The fact remains that anyone (smoker and non-smoker alike) can be at risk for lung cancer and that our government must bring our plight into the forefront with more funds to fight the disease.
What’s needed: a push for more research, more cures, and more of the best doctors treating us, so people don’t run to cancer hospitals all over the world. The symbol of this disease is a white pearl, shown as a pearl colored ribbon. The slogan is “Finding the Cure Starts with Awareness.” Please help me spread the word. If you send a check for a donation, add a note, “To Be Used for Lung Cancer Grants Only.”
Those of us with cancer and those of you who are caretakers must get angry and demand a cure. To those of you who smoke, I have some advice. Do yourself the biggest favor in the world and quit. You can’t believe what a terrible disease this is.
Freddi Silverman Myers, a West Windsor resident, was for many years the president of Strateg-e, a PR and marketing firm based on Princeton-Hightstown Road.