My lung cancer story starts with me being born to a mother who smoked during pregnancy. I was exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke up to the age of 18. When I was 11 years old, I was told by my mother that my grandmother, Mary Jean, was diagnosed with lung cancer and was unable to afford the cost of starting chemotherapy treatment. Within a few months, my grandmother moved from Fort Worth, TX to Albuquerque, NM to be with us. Mary Jean loved to go fishing and be with her family. She was a hard-working woman that lived through the depression and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. She continued to be the grandmother that I had come to know and love, but a terrible disease that was stealing her away from us.
Over the next 9 months of her life, I was able to be my grandmother’s caregiver. I would accompany her to the grocery store and pharmacy to pick up her medications. Her spirits were always high even though she was in a lot of pain and very sick inside. I was able to be with her at her hospital bedside as she took her last breath on this earth. At that time in her life when she was fighting for her life, I was able to go “All In.” As a family, we were there for her when she needed it the most.
She was the reason why I became a health care worker and have a Doctor of Pharmacy. As a pharmacist, I continue her fight against lung cancer and affordable health care for all. I can make a difference for patients with chronic respiratory diseases, such as COPD, asthma, lung cancer, and pneumonia. I help them with their medication selection and overall drug costs. We also have a role in respiratory diseases by improving inhalation technique and medication adherence. I educate my patients on preventative health care behavior that can help to improve overall patient outcomes and life. Everyone deserves the right to have affordable health care. Everyone deserves the right to live a life that is free of cigarette smoke and can breathe clean air. I will continue to encourage people who smoke to Quit. I encourage all of us to make a difference in each other’s lives by stepping up and going “All In” when a patient or family member needs you the most.