It has always been important to Edward to serve his country and help others, which is why he spent 24 years in the Air Force. That included serving in Vietnam, when agent orange use and tobacco use were both high. “Smoking was very popular; in fact, they would come around and hand out cigarettes,” he recalls. Edward stopped smoking cold turkey in December 1976, but in 2020 his past came back to haunt him. “I went into the doctor for a routine check. Back in 2016, I had cancer removed from my right tonsil. As a result of the follow up, the doctor found a spot on my lung,” he said.

Edward was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and began talking to a doctor about next steps. Because the cancer had metastasized, his oncologist decided not to do surgery, but instead suggested a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. After half a dozen sessions, Edward decided that he needed to try something else, so he began to research clinical trials.

Why clinical trials?

When Edward was first diagnosed, his oncologist asked him if he would be open to clinical trials, and he immediately agreed. “A main reason was because of my sister’s struggle with breast cancer. She fought it for eight years but unfortunately, she passed away in 2004 at just 54 years old. Since then, many advancements have been made thanks to clinical trials so if I can help, I would like to,” he said.

He was even more convinced after he learned more about the Lung Association’s Awareness, Trust and Action campaign, which aims to educate Black Americans about clinical trials and encourage them to speak with their healthcare provider. “It specifically talked about the Black community and why they are reluctant to make themselves available for clinical trials. The campaign also explained how this underrepresentation in clinical trials has been hurting the Black community. So, I knew that it was important that I opt in.” Edward is currently participating in his second clinical trial.

Spreading the word

Besides his participation in the lung cancer trials, Edward has shared his story with elected officials during the 2022 virtual LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day. Over a Zoom call with his three Oklahoma members of Congress, Edward urged them to continue to support lung cancer research. “I think veterans are called to step up. We need to let people know that no matter why we got sick, we do need help and there are people out there who care,” he said. “Ultimately, it is about helping someone else down the road, it’s not just about me.”  

The American Lung Association and VA are partnering to help Veterans access support and resources available to them, while providing the Lung Association opportunities to learn more about Veteran-specific issues.  Read more about this partnership in our press release. You can also visit our website to learn why veterans and military contractors may be at higher risk for lung disease.

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