Jenny W

Jenny W., AZ

My lung story is multifaceted. I have served as a minister for over twenty years. I have listened to church member’s calls after they hear the news that there was something abnormal on their chest x-ray. I have sat and prayed with those same families before they are wheeled back for a biopsy. I have talked them through their anxiety and tried to find things to help keep their minds busy as they wait the long seven days for the pathology report. I have been the one they have called to share the result of the biopsy. Too often I find myself taking a deep breath and praying my voice doesn’t break as they declare, “It’s lung cancer.” From that moment on I walk with them through treatments, hospital stays, ringing of bells, and for some I gather with the family and pray silently or out loud as the person takes their last breath.  It is a sacred journey to be invited to witness. It is often ugly and difficult, but also full of moments that are profound and awe inspiring because of the resilience of the human spirit.

I believe that I can have a deep sense of empathy for those that journey with in my professional role, particularly those walking with lung cancer because of the other parts of my story that have deeply formed who I am as a pastor. In the early 2000s, my grandmother’s oldest sister, my great Aunt Treva, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She lived in Oregon and my family lived in Oklahoma. I remember my grandmother’s long phone calls with Treva and then her baby sister who also lived in Oregon. Treva’s siblings were all trying to convince her to try one of the treatment options. But Treva was adamant that she did not want to go through the treatments since her cancer was already stage four. No matter how many times her sisters’ said to her, “We still have lots of quilts to quilt” Treva refused to change her mind. While Treva was a heavy smoker, she never had early screening for lung cancer. She continued smoking even while on oxygen. I have a vivid memory of her turning offer her oxygen to smoke a cigarette and then turning it back on once she finished her “smoke.” I was terrified that she was about to cause an explosion. Treva’s decision not to seek treatment outside of comfort care, meant that she passed away quickly.

The last part that I bring to my lung story, is my own personal experience. I have lived my whole life with chronic asthma. For a large part of my 45 years of life, my asthma was defined as severe, chronic, steroid dependent asthma. The asthma has caused some airway remodeling and bronchiectasis in my lungs. I know well the feeling of struggling to breathe. I know what it means to think out your breath every moment of the day, something most people take for granted. I know the exhaustion that goes with having a chronic illness. That is why it is my passion to advocate for those in my congregation and those I love for better lung health.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S. Approximately 541,000 Americans living today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives. Screening for individuals at high risk has the potential to dramatically improve lung cancer survival rates by finding the disease at an earlier stage when it is more likely to be curable. Asthma affects 24.8 million Americans, including 5.5 million children, and accounts for millions of emergency department visits and tens of billions in healthcare costs a year. According the 2022 Global Health Report more than a 1000 people die a day from asthma.
I am committed to helping to change these statics for the better by using my voice to advocate for better access to early screenings, better access to quality health care and comprehensive insurance, promoting education in our schools on the dangers of smoking and vaping, and working to advocate for clean air initiatives. There are so many ways that we can affect change, one voice encouraging others to speak out can become many.

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