ATLANTA, GA | March 15, 2021
Atlanta resident Karen Baumbach is a healthy, active woman who didn’t have any symptoms when she was given a surprising diagnosis – lung cancer. This Wednesday, March 17, Baumbach will meet with members of Congress to raise awareness about the disease and demand action.
Through the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative, Baumbach will join others personally affected by lung cancer to advocate for $46.1 billion in funding at the National Institutes of Health, $10 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, adequate and accessible healthcare.
In 2007, Baumbach went in for a routine checkup, and her physician gave her a chest x-ray as a part of their regular practice. Two weeks later, she received a call that they found a spot on her lung. Baumbach had a CT scan, and doctors scheduled another scan three months later to see if the spot had grown. The second scan showed that the spot hadn’t grown, but since it remained, they did a bronchoscopy. More tests revealed something Baumbach didn’t expect.
“We went to get the results, and the doctor said, ‘you have lung cancer.’ And I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’” said Baumbach. “It was completely and totally out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting this diagnosis. I have never smoked. I wasn’t even around secondhand smoke.”
After her diagnosis, she told her family and friends about her condition and was consistently asked the same three questions --- “What were your symptoms?” “How did you find it?” and “I didn’t know you smoked!”
“I don’t blame them,” she said. “Before my diagnosis, I thought that smokers were the only ones that got lung cancer.”
In October 2008, Baumbach had surgery to remove the lower left lobe of her lung. She was able to stand and walk the next morning and spent only five days in the hospital. Within three weeks, she walked one mile for a lung cancer awareness event.
“People just don’t grasp how prevalent this disease is. It is not just a smoker’s disease. People need to understand that no one is immune to lung cancer,” Baumbach said. “All of the new drugs and treatment and knowledge of these cancers is amazing, but we don’t have a cure.”
Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Advocacy Day event will be conducted virtually to allow this important message to be heard while also protecting their health and safety of patients and caregivers. On March 17, during the virtual Advocacy Day, Baumbach will speak with the offices of Representative Barry Loudermilk, and Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to share her personal experience with lung cancer and explain why investments in public health, research funding and quality and affordable healthcare are important to her.
It is estimated that in 2021 alone, there will be over 7,250 people in Georgia diagnosed with lung cancer and 4,200 will succumb to the disease. But more people than ever are living with lung cancer in part because survivors are sharing their stories and policymakers are taking action in response. That’s why Baumbach is sharing her story with lawmakers and others -- so that more can be done to help lung cancer patients and their caregivers throughout the United States and in Georgia.
Baumbach encourages others in Georgia to advocate for lung cancer research and healthcare protections by contacting their members of Congress. Learn more about her story and the LUNG FORCE initiative at LUNGFORCE.org.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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