October may be breast cancer awareness month, but breast cancer is not the only cancer in need of awareness. I recently discovered an important movement, “WTF” (Where’s the Funding) for Lung Cancer? It turns out that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer and the least funded cancer. How can that be? Is the stigma attached to having lung cancer, due to a belief that, by smoking, the lung cancer patient brought it on him or herself, the problem? Would it help remove the stigma to realize that you don’t need to be a smoker to get lung cancer? In fact, “80% of new lung cancer cases are diagnosed in patients who have never smoked, or former smokers who quit decades ago.
The founder of WTF (you get the double entendre, right?) is Jennifer Windrum, whose mother, Leslie Lehrman, has inoperable and incurable Stage IV lung cancer. Jennifer’s mother never smoked. Jennifer was called to action by her mother’s experience and WTF was born. Its purpose is to chronicle her mother’s illness, bring awareness to the disease and increase funding. It underlines the gravity of the disease to read Jennifer’s words, “Cure? Sure, but we have major issues to tackle first. Until lung cancer becomes a treatable, manageable chronic disease, I will continue to loudly scream, “WTF” for Lung Cancer?”
Many, many years ago, I worked with a woman who got lung cancer and died from it. She left behind a husband and teenaged children. She was a smoker, so although I was horrified and saddened by her death, I thought it had nothing to do with me. It wasn’t until Dana Reeve, Christopher Reeve’s widow, was diagnosed and died from the same disease, that I had any idea non-smokers could get lung cancer too. Still, her death at age 44 seemed to be a shocking abnormality. Now I know better.
Now I know lung cancer kills more people than the next three deadly cancers combined, over three times as many men as are killed by prostate cancer, nearly twice as many women as are killed by breast cancer and an average of 437 people a day.
It’s time for all of us to become aware of this disease, because it can and does afflict anyone at any time. As cancer survivors, we have a responsibility to ourselves to be better educated and aware about all cancers. Go to Jennifer’s website and educate yourself about lung cancer. If you are a lung cancer survivor, the site is an amazing resource for information and support. Please let me know what you think about Jennifer’s movement.
Survival > Existence,