Miami Woman with Lung Cancer Meets with Florida Lawmakers to Advocate for Change

Local resident Irisaida Mendez is a Stage IV cancer patient with lung metastasis. Every day, she fights to live and fights to breathe. This Wednesday, March 17, she will meet with members of Congress to raise awareness about the disease and demand action. 

Through the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative, Mendez 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 2017, Mendez learned that her uterine cancer distantly metastasized from her uterus to her left lung. After undergoing a lobectomy, she followed by the standard course of treatment, including six-and-a-half-hour long chemotherapy sessions every three weeks. Despite the aggressive treatment and having a lung removed, the cancer kept spreading, now attacking the upper lobe, the pleura and the mediastinum, compromising even more her ability to breathe. Chemo didn’t work and she was told by my doctors that she had 18-24 months to live, so she sought a second opinion.

“The doctors offered me ‘the last resort’ when nothing else works - a new immunotherapy that wouldn’t cure me, but it could prolong my life,” said Mendez. “And if my cancer stops responding to the treatment I am on, there is not another treatment to try. My life shows the need for more research for better early detection, treatment and cures for lung cancer.”

Mendez is also passionate about access to affordable healthcare. Each year, she must pay a minimum of $20,000 out-of-pocket for the treatments that keeps her alive. 

“While the new treatment I am on has given me more time to spend with my family, including my four children, it has not come without costs,” she said. “While I am not cured, as long as I have my infusion every three weeks, my cancer is not spreading. Every day I face the imperative need for quality, affordable health insurance to be able to access without such an economic burden.”

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, Mendez will meet with members of the Florida Congressional delegation including Senator Marco Rubio 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.  

“Lung Cancer can happen to anybody and it needs to be addressed with high priority,” said Mendez. “Being able to take part in LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day gives positive meaning to what I have to face. The promise of better healthcare and better solutions makes a difference. I am going through this, but I am also trying to leave a mark on the world.”

It is estimated that in 2021 alone, there will be over 18,470 people in Florida diagnosed with lung cancer and 10,940 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 Mendez 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 Florida. 

Mendez encourages others in Florida 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.
 

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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