In February 2015, my 6 year old son and I were in a terrible car accident. I didn't realize at the time that the car accident was the least of my problems. In fact, I believe the accident saved my life. It was because of the severity of the accident that I consented to a trauma scan at the hospital. The doctors didn't find anything of concern related to the car accident, but mentioned "you might want to check out that mass in your lung." As a forty year old, healthy woman who had never smoked a cigarette, I didn't seriously believe that the mass was anything of huge concern. The doctor at the hospital also minimized the mass, saying "we see them all the time" and, "you've never smoked, right?"
It was only three days later, when my primary care physician saw the CAT Scan report, and told me that I needed a biopsy as soon as possible, that I became concerned. Still, I was in disbelief. I had believed the public service announcements that relentlessly tell us that smoking causes lung cancer, and if you don't smoke, you could cross lung cancer off your worry list. Wrong. A few biopsies later, it was confirmed. I had stage 3a adenocarcinoma, non-small cell lung cancer. As if a cancer diagnosis was bad enough, I then started learning that the survival statistics were dismal, and hadn't really improved in decades. It became clear to me, after the twentieth time I was asked if I smoked, why there is so little awareness about this deadly disease: the stigma. Because lung cancer is caused by smoking, or so the thought goes, lung cancer sufferers deserve what they get. These attitudes have to change. Lung cancer isn't just a smoker's disease: the face of lung cancer is changing. Moreover, no one deserves to die of lung cancer.
First Published: April 18, 2016
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