Heidi N

Heidi N., CO

Being a lifelong health enthusiast, health educator, and fitness trainer, married to a primary care physician, my family and I were shocked when I was diagnosed with inoperable Stage IIIA lung cancer at the age of 55 in Oct. of 2018.  This was an incidental finding while investigating an ovarian cyst.  I had no symptoms.  I didn't know anyone with lungs could get lung cancer until it happened to me.  Being trained in prevention, how could my husband and I not know I could be at risk for lung cancer? Initially given a grim prognosis, my oncologist informed me that a new immunotherapy had just been approved one month prior to my diagnosis with curative intent. I had 3 cycles of chemoradiation which included 30 radiation treatments, followed by a year of every other week immunotherapy infusions. I completed all immunotherapy treatments in Jan. of 2020, and I continue to show no evidence of disease over 3 years after diagnosis. There are so many misconceptions about lung cancer, and I and many others are living proof that there is hope for high quality of life after diagnosis. I started The White Ribbon Project out of frustration about the lack of planning for on the part of cancer centers, health care facilities/providers and organizations to do anything for lung cancer awareness month in November of 2020. I asked my husband to make me a big wooden white ribbon door hanger that I could put on my front door, so I could take control and at least educate from my front door. No permission needed, no hoops to jump through. I remember feeling so alone throughout the first year of my diagnosis. I was not given any information about support groups of advocacy organizations. The White Ribbon helps survivors and caregivers find each other and build a community where we all know we are loved and we belong. The time is now to teach the real facts about lung cancer, as there are many risk factors outside of a smoking history. We unknowingly had high radon levels in our home where we raised our family for over 20 years, and I grew up in Los Angeles when it was the smog capital of the world. I hope a universal screening method will be developed to screen anyone with lungs, as we are all at risk. Focusing only on "don't smoke" and one will not be at risk for lung cancer is not enough. Prevention should also be defined as screening and early detection, just like it is for all other cancers. Research matters. Funding matters. We have to keep going!!

First Published: January 31, 2022

Freedom From Smoking Clinic
Detroit, MI | May 29, 2024