For nearly a year, I was short of breath but always told I had a cold, bronchitis or walking pneumonia—that my lungs sounded clear, and was given round after round of antibiotics, steroids, cough suppressants etc. In December of 2019 I coughed up blood while on vacation and was told it was "just bronchitis." On March 21, 2020, I again coughed up blood and went to the ER to push for answers—I knew something was wrong but as a 37-year-old female with no history of smoking, smoke exposure or other risk factors I simply didn't fit what people consider the "typical" lung cancer profile.
Fortunately, I was given a CT scan and that is when a mass measuring approximately 1-inch by 3/4-inches was found in my lung. Through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I fought to receive care and the barrage of tests needed to figure out what exactly I was dealing with. Then on May 5th, surgeons removed the lower lobe of my right lung. Pathology confirmed the mass was indeed a carcinoid tumor, and so began my search for answers. How? Why? Unfortunately, very few answers are available, and my research led me to understand that women are disproportionately impacted by lung cancer and what most people consider high-risk factors simply aren't appearing in the patient profile.
There isn't enough research to understand why yet, and that needs to change. I have two young daughters and we need to find answers for me, for them, for all of us. We need to remove the stigma surrounding lung cancer, secure the research dollars needed and better understand this disease that impacts such a large portion of our population, and kills more than any other cancer. It isn't just life-long smokers, and not all cancers are pink.