Andrea’s mother was just 42 years-old when a routine checkup discovered a shadow on her lungs. After a few more tests, it was determined that her seemingly healthy mother had stage four lung cancer. This was a shock to Andrea’s entire family because there was no history of lung disease and her mother had lived a healthy lifestyle. Her healthcare team suggested chemotherapy, as well as some lifestyle changes, but at the time there was little that could be done, and later that year she passed away. Andrea was 10 years old at the time, but it would become a driving force behind her advocacy efforts.

Getting Involved at Home

About eight years ago, Andrea was asked by her friend Lori to perform in a new event for the American Lung Association, LipSync for lungs. The first event was a success and other chapters of the Lung Association hosted their own Lip Sync event in cities across America. Since the first year Andrea has been on the planning committee and actively recruits new performers for the Charleston event. “We get four or five local celebrities to raise money, a minimum of $50,000 each. It’s lip syncing but it is like a live concert, we have it at Charleston Music Hall and the production is amazing.” Not only is it a memorable night for Lung Association supporters and their families, but it is a great way to raise money and spread awareness about the most important lung health issues. “We usually get some great local sponsors, and it is just a great way to involve the community.”

LipSync for Lungs LipSync for Lungs, Andrea dressed as Prince

In addition, Andrea has been the announcer at Charleston's LUNG FORCE Walks on Folly Beach and she has helped gather live and silent auctions items for the annual Oxygen Ball gala. “I want to spread awareness so that people understand that lung cancer does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone so don’t ignore any abnormalities.”

Creating Nationwide Change

Andrea has also traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the annual LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day. While there, she met with state representatives to talk about funding needed for lung cancer research. They also discussed the continued funding for supporting Medicaid and other programs for people without insurance. “It was a real eye opening and educational experience for me because I never knew how these things worked. To meet other people who are representing their state and realizing that a lot of them are LUNG FORCE Heroes who are still going through treatment or who have recently recovered was moving,” Andrea said. “Also seeing these fundraising dollars at work was incredibly impactful because this research and breakthrough treatments weren't around when my mother was struggling with lung cancer.”

Just this year, Andrea's friend was given a similar diagnosis but with very different results. “My friend has been complaining about a chronic cough for about a while and so she went to get it checked out. An X-ray revealed it was stage four lung cancer. She’s only 38,” Andrea said. Andrea was devastated, but her friend's course of treatment and outcomes have been drastically different than her mother's. “Years ago, a stage four diagnosis was a death sentence. But now, she is taking a chemo pill and using a hyperbolic chamber and the tumor has shrunk. Her doctors say she could live for a long time.”

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Andrea's mother Andrea's mother passed away when she was just 10 years old.
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