Misty, third from the left, is pictured with her husband, John, and other LUNG FORCE Heroes.
Lung cancer has very few symptoms early on, which is one reason why the disease is so deadly. It is often found by chance. And even though lung cancer is the leading cancer killer, awareness remains critically low. To save more lives, we must find a way to detect lung cancer early – not simply by chance.
Since the inception of LUNG FORCE, the American Lung Association has sought to raise our collective voice and amplify the stories of people impacted by lung cancer. Each person diagnosed with lung cancer has a unique story and experience with the condition. Sharing these stories encourages greater awareness and empowers those at high risk to speak to their doctor about screening options, so that we can catch the disease early, when more treatment options are available. The reality of this deadly disease and the lives it affects also drives our force of volunteers to push for research innovation that will lead to better methods of early detection and more treatment options so everyone has a fighting chance.
We were honored to have the opportunity to help several of our LUNG FORCE Heroes – those whose lives have been touched by lung cancer – to record their stories with StoryCorps during our second annual LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day. Founded more than 10 years ago, StoryCorps has provided thousands of people with the opportunity to strengthen and build connections, learn the value of listening and promote the understanding that everyone's story matters.
Misty B. was one of the Heroes who joined us to record her story. Misty relied on the support of her husband, John, after she was diagnosed with stage IIB lung cancer.
"We weren't even married for three months when I was diagnosed," Misty said. "John has always been a caring and supportive spouse, and when I was diagnosed, he didn't think twice about stepping into the role of caregiver."
"'For better or for worse' kicked in right away," John said.
"I feel very blessed because it was five months from diagnosis to getting my 'all clear'. Out of a lot of stories I've heard, I was very lucky," Misty said.
Despite their struggles, John felt that their experience with lung cancer made them stronger. "Don't give up hope and always stay strong. We got through this, we can get through anything now," John said.
The experiences and voices of our Heroes were crucial in taking the LUNG FORCE mission to our Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill. Together, the Heroes advocated for quality, affordable healthcare and increased funding for lung cancer research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We know that above all, personal stories like those shared earlier this month help ignite change and raise awareness of the prevalence of lung cancer, and the effect it has on families all over the country, every day.
"Telling someone about your experience breathes new life into it, moving it out of the inchoate swirl of unconsciousness into reality. It takes on form and allows us to examine it from all angles." - Mandy Aftel
Our Heroes are having a tangible impact on the nation's health priorities, as earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate reached an agreement on an FY17 federal appropriations bill that included a $2 billion increase in funding for the NIH.