I lost my father to stage four lung cancer just ten days after he was diagnosed. We watched as he rapidly withered away, cough by cough. In just 240 hours, he was gone.
My father was a wise man, Wharton educated, highly respected in the field of finance and brokerage, with an uncanny ability to touch people with his words. He taught my brothers and me the importance of giving back, supporting others and making a difference. He was my compass in all things. And the grief of losing such a tremendous anchor in my life, is unbearably heavy.
Unfortunately, I am not alone. The caretaker’s club of grieving lung cancer victims is a crowded one.
The sad reality is, half of those diagnosed with lung cancer are alive one year later. I have lived this statistic — in addition to my father, my grandmother, aunt, and uncle all passed within six months of being diagnosed with small cell carcinoma. As sad as this fact is, it’s no surprise, when lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States. It causes more deaths than colon cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer combined – and the five year survival rate is dismal at just 18.6%.
I remember the conversation my father had with his oncologist. He asked him what more we could do to fight the disease. His doctor explained he was not a candidate for chemotherapy and that the disease had just spread too far. My father looked at him and said, so are you telling me I should just wait around to die? The doctor’s response was, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what else to tell you.
This sort of response is unacceptable – we need to do more to improve lung health, lung cancer screenings, and improve the survival rate of lung cancer by catching the disease early and improving both awareness and education.
The statistics do not lie. Less money is spent on lung cancer research that most other cancers. The National Cancer Institute estimated that while our government spends roughly $11,000 per breast cancer death for research, only $1,100 is spent per lung cancer death, yet twice as many women die from lung cancer than breast cancer.
I’m trying my best to do my part. For the last seven years, I’ve participated in the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Walk in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as a team captain, committee chair, and a Delaware board member. My team name is: Each One of Us Can Make a Difference, which was inspired by our father’s personal motto. He lived a life dedicated to service and its in that spirit my family and friends continue the work to eradicate lung cancer. In the last seven years, we’ve raised nearly $40,000 for this effort.
But that’s not enough, we need to do more, raise more, share more. It is my sincere hope, that you will join me in the fight against lung cancer – we should not live in a world where daughters like me lose father’s like mine, because there simply is no hope.