When many people are diagnosed with lung cancer, they can feel isolated and alone. Lung cancer does not have nearly the resources, support and public empathy that many other diseases have. This is likely due in large part to the strong, pervasive stigma associated with it. Research shows stigma is experienced more by lung cancer patients than by many other patient groups. One of the most tangible resources available for lung cancer patients is finding a mentor who has navigated their own journey and can provide meaningful support.

Last year, the American Lung Association announced a new partnership with Imerman Angels that brings mentorship services to individuals impacted by lung cancer. Imerman Angels offers free one-on-one mentoring support by connecting those living with cancer, survivors and caregivers with experienced “Mentor Angels.”

When LUNG FORCE Hero Denise L. was first diagnosed with lung cancer, she felt unsure about where to turn for support. “I was really scared when I was first diagnosed, and I specifically reached out for support from the cancer community. Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to lung cancer and when speaking with other cancer patients.”

For Denise, being connected with her mentor Kari through Imerman Angels helped her receive the meaningful assistance she needed after being diagnosed. “It helped me to be able to talk to someone who had a similar diagnosis, similar stage and treatments. It also helped that I could talk to her about my fears. She taught me that someone else's cancer journey wasn't my own.”

Kari helped Denise learn that newly developed lung cancer treatments have helped more lung cancer patients live longer and help her think more positively. “A mentor can help the mentee shift his or her negative mindset toward one of hope. Hope is what gives us the strength to get through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and/or immunotherapy," Kari said.

The mentorship experience with Kari encouraged Denise to become an advocate and to work to raise awareness about this deadly disease. “The fact that lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer is in large part due to its nature. Every chance I get, I tell people my story and encourage those who are eligible for lung cancer screening to get screened.”

Denise learned that for mentorship to be successful, it needs to be a continuous process. “Mentorship doesn't stop when treatment stops,” she said. “One of the hardest times for me was after treatment. I still live in the shadow of cancer. ‘Scanxiety’ is real and the threat of a recurrence is ever present, so I talk to my mentor about that stuff as well.”

In addition, Kari relied on Denise’s support when she had a recurrence of her own lung cancer. “Denise is a wonderful listener and she doesn’t judge what I’m feeling. Since she has had lung surgery, she has first-hand experience with many of the side effects that can happen. I am on my second lung cancer recurrence and Denise is able to ask me the tough questions about how I am feeling,” Kari said.

“I think those who benefit from mentorship aren't just the patient, but also caretakers, friends and family. I think cancer patients benefit from a holistic approach, so anything that helps the patient, such as mentors, helps anyone that comes in contact with that patient,” said Denise.

Lung cancer patients can visit our mentor webpage if they would like to receive or become a patient or caregiver “Mentor Angel.” A cancer support specialist from Imerman Angels will get in touch to learn more about your story and match you with a mentor or mentee who would be a good fit and discuss next steps.

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