FORT MILL, SC | March 15, 2021
Fort Mill resident Mike Smith has been living with stage IV lung cancer since 2016, and thanks to new research and treatments, he lives a relatively normal life. This Wednesday, March 17, Smith will meet with members of Congress to raise awareness about the disease and demand action.
Through the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative, Smith 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 the summer of 2016, Smith was working in his backyard and experienced what he thought was an asthma event. He used his inhaler, but it failed to give him relief. He knew something was wrong but brushed it off as allergies. Then in July 2016, he woke up in the middle of the night thinking he was having a heart attack. He switched doctors and went over his full medical history with them. That night, he received a call from his doctor.
“When you get a call from your doctor at 8 p.m. at night it is probably not good news,” he said. “Preliminary analysis showed that there was a mass on my right lung. The doctors didn’t know what it was then but thought that it could be cancer.”
After more than three weeks of testing, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“It was a punch in the gut,” he said. “How could I get lung cancer? I never smoked. Then I found out that 20% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are never smokers.”
Smith underwent radiation, a craniotomy to remove a brain tumor and has had three targeted therapies to treat his lung cancer. September will be the five-year anniversary of his lung cancer diagnosis. He is still in treatment but works full time and goes to the gym five days a week.
“If I don’t advocate for myself with lung cancer, who will? That is the only way we can find a cure. The American Lung Association and its research funding has been a miracle for me,” he said. “My most important message is that lung cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you are Black, White, Asian, Caucasian, smoker, non-smoker, or whatever, if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.”
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, Smith will speak with the offices of Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Tim Scott, and Congresswoman Ralph Norman to share his personal experience with lung cancer and explain why investments in public health, research funding and quality and affordable healthcare are important to him.
It is estimated that in 2021 alone, there will be over 4,510 people in South Carolina diagnosed with lung cancer and 2,550 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 Smith is sharing his 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 South Carolina.
Smith encourages others in South Carolina to advocate for lung cancer research and healthcare protections by contacting their members of Congress. Learn more about his 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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