Nurse from Manhattan Helps Raise Awareness about Lung Cancer
(December 8, 2015) -
Lola Laverne Powell has spent years working in the medical field, but even her extensive knowledge of medicine couldn’t prepare her for the emotional toll that would come from losing her father to lung cancer. She lost her father, Alvin Bracy, to lung cancer in January 2011. She has chosen to fight the disease in his honor ever since. At the time of her father’s diagnosis, Powell was working as a registered nurse and a clinical administrator at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. Bracy’s diagnosis caused Powell to see lung cancer through a different set of eyes and even inspired her to change her career. (She’s now the Educational Coordinator of the Lung Screening Program at Mount Sinai Hospital.) She has also become a tireless advocate for the American Lung Association and has become heavily involved in the LUNG FORCE movement to raise awareness about lung cancer.
“The thing that struck me most about lung cancer was that there seemed to be less compassion there for the patient than there was for patients suffering from other conditions whether it was another type of cancer or even something like a cardiac condition. That really hurt a lot and it still bothers me today,” said Powell. “As much as we all know that there are factors other than smoking that can contribute to lung cancer diagnosis, there’s still this stigma associated with the disease and that is the last thing a cancer patient or their family needs. No one chooses to have lung cancer. Furthermore, everyone deserves to be treated with compassion when they are battling an illness. Because I lived this, I am passionate about the work I do with the lung screening program. I want patients and their families to have the resources and support they need every step of the way.”
Powell remembers her father as someone who was always willing to lend a hand and she describes him as one of the most compassionate people she ever knew. He always had empathy for other people yet when it came to having lung cancer, Alvin Bracy was hard on himself. While Bracy served his country, he began smoking the tobacco the government distributed to help servicemen deal with the stress of being in harm’s way. Even though this is how he started smoking, he still blamed himself for not being able to quit. Powell’s father didn’t tell his family about his lung cancer right away because he was embarrassed by his inability to quit smoking and didn’t want to worry them. He went alone to his initial appointments and didn’t break the news to his family until the time came for treatment. Powell suspects her father’s difficulty quitting smoking also had an effect on the way he was treated by some in the health care system.
“When I think of all he went through alone I think that no one should have to face lung cancer alone,” said Powell. “This disease is something all of us need to be concerned about, men and women, smokers and nonsmokers. It is the leading cause of cancer in both men and women but far too many people aren’t even aware of this fact and they need to be.”
It is that very lack of awareness Powell mentions that was the genesis of the LUNG FORCE movement. LUNG FORCE encourages women to stand together against lung cancer and for lung health. It was created in response to the results of the American Lung Association’s inaugural Women’s Lung Health Barometer—a survey of over 1,000 American women ages 18+ that measured women’s awareness, knowledge and perceptions about lung cancer. The inaugural barometer research in 2014 found that the disease is not even on women’s radar. In fact, when asked to identify cancers that affect women, only 1 percent of women cited lung cancer on a top-of-mind basis. The second annual barometer released last month shows that while some progress has been made there’s still a long way to go. Only 1 percent of women cite lung cancer on a top of mind basis. That’s one of the many reasons Powell is helping to spread the word.
In addition to helping to raise awareness during November which was Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Powell intends to sponsor a “turquoise takeover” at her office during Women’s Lung Health Week in May like she did last year. The event raises funds for LUNG FORCE and awareness about lung cancer. And she is planning to participate in the LUNG FORCE Walk New York City which will be held on May 14 at South Street Seaport. Those interested in learning more about the event can visit the website at http://action.lung.org/nyc or email [email protected]
“Lung cancer needs to be a disease that people know and care about. The Lung Association is committed to raising awareness and the research dollars needed to find better treatments and cures,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “We are truly grateful to have ambassadors like Lola who are willing to share their personal experiences with lung cancer and help us amplify our message.”
To learn more about LUNG FORCE visit LUNGFORCE.org.