A wave of turquoise hit the Tribeca Grand Hotel at the American Lung Association’s star-studded LUNG FORCE event. Country singer Kellie Pickler, and actresses Laura Dern and Valerie Harper were on-site to discuss their connections to lung cancer after the unveiling of the moving Share Your Voice video, which featured the stars and women affected by lung cancer across the country.
"My grandmother Faye was the woman I called mom," said Kellie Pickler, who lost her grandmother to lung cancer at the age of 15 - just one day after she was diagnosed. "So it was very sudden, of course, and there's no way to prepare for anything like that."
Kellie reiterated her gratitude to be a part of LUNG FORCE and share her voice for a cause that could make a difference in the way people talk and think about lung cancer, and the amount of research and funding that can ultimately go toward a cure. "I'm so thankful to be here and be a part of something that I'm passionate about that matters. People matter."
Valerie Harper was in good spirits and good health, despite her 2009 lung cancer diagnosis. During the panel discussion, she expressed how misunderstood lung cancer is, sharing that she "never smoked and still got lung cancer." It's important to realize that anyone can get lung cancer. Other risk factors include air pollution, genetics and radon. (For more facts and statistics about lung cancer, check out this infographic.)
Today, Valerie can proudly say that despite being given just a few months to live in 2013, she's been living with her cancer for two years and four months, and counting.
Actress Laura Dern also shared her story, remembering her grandfather's lung cancer illness after playing "Bobbi," author Cheryl Strayed's mom in the motion picture "Wild" who struggled and lost her battle with lung cancer right before her eyes. "This woman who left a horrific situation of domestic violence and poverty and children on her own, had such an incredible joy of life, and wisdom and authentic art, suddenly at 44 was diagnosed and died within three weeks of her diagnosis," Laura said. "They knew nothing and didn't understand anything about her disease."
Additionally, notable women including American model and actress, Shantel VanSanten - most recognized for her role in the drama series One Tree Hill - and former Washington, DC news anchor and lung cancer survivor, Greta Kreuz, opened up about the effects of lung cancer in their lives.
Shantel's grandmother passed away from lung cancer just six months after being diagnosed in 2014. "It wasn't until she was sick, that I learned the facts about lung cancer - I learned that it can happen to anyone," she said. Shantel has played an active role in raising awareness around the disease and wants to carry on her grandmother's legacy of inspiring others with her story.
Former Washington, DC news anchor, Greta Kreuz, won an Emmy for her series 'Lung Cancer, Not Just for Smokers' after her first diagnosis. "A lot of people think that you get lung cancer, you're treated and either you die or you get cured, but it's a journey," she explained. Greta lost her sister at age 49 to lung cancer, and was diagnosed herself at stage one in 2012 and then again at stage four in 2014. She shares her voice "to give others hope" and as a living example of a modern day hero, echoes the sentiment that "we have to get the word out and find a cure."
Despite being the leading cancer killer of both women and men, and surpassing breast cancer in 1987 to be the number one cancer killer of women, awareness, funding and research are still minimal. As the American Lung Association's CEO and National President Harold Wimmer concluded by sharing that every five minutes, a woman is diagnosed with lung cancer. And every eight minutes, a woman dies from lung cancer.
LUNG FORCE hopes to shift the tide on these startling statistics. And, hopefully, as more women share their voice, we can all band together, as a force, to change the future for lung cancer victims.