How A Pain in the Hip Turned out to be Lung Cancer for A Melbourne Teacher

On May 8, Debra Smith will walk to fund life-saving lung cancer research

Three years ago, Melbourne resident and Suntree Elementary Teacher Debra Smith experienced a pain in her hip, which turned out to be stage IV lung cancer. On May 8, she will walk to raise money for life-saving lung cancer research at the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Run/Walk at SeaWorld.

In December 2017, Smith experienced pain in her hip. Since she was an active 55-year-old woman who had been doing Pilates for years, she thought it was a pulled hip flexor. She went to physical therapy, but the pain only got worse. She visited an orthopedic doctor, who gave her an MRI. A week later, and they found a tumor in her hip.

“It was stage IV lung cancer. It was a shock because I am not a smoker and I am in decent shape,” she said. “They put a titanium rod in my hip and prescribed a targeted therapy. There are highs and lows. It is a roller coaster ride.”

Smith had the tumor tested, and it revealed a genetic marker called EGFR, which means there was a targeted therapy pill called Tagrisso to help treat her lung cancer. She is still taking the medication for her lung cancer and is teaching and works out three days a week. Her type of lung cancer is treatable but not curable.

After she had time to catch her breath after the diagnosis, Smith and her husband, Kent, decided that they wanted to give back. Kent created “Team Deb” for the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk and they began raising funds for research. 

“It is essential that ‘Team Deb’ continues to raise funds for lung cancer research as my future depends on that research,” said Smith. “My current wonder drug (Tagrisso) would never have been developed without this research. There are over 130 clinical trials for lung cancer research right now! At some point, I will more than likely need to be a part of a trial and Kent and I are determined to continue to raise funds for lung cancer research.”  

After three years of participating in the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk, “Team Deb” has raised more than $18,000 for lung cancer research. For this year’s event, they have already raised more than $10,500.

“I am blessed with a wonderful support team consisting of Kent, Kaylie, Kyle, Kiera, Alejandro, my family, friends and Suntree Elementary faculty that pray for me often!  I am very thankful that medical research has made great strides in lung cancer research,” she said. “I need to spread the word that lung cancer can happen to anybody. If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.  I want to show people that I am going to fight this with everything I have. It doesn’t have to be a life sentence. I want to be a positive example.”

The Orlando LUNG FORCE Run/Walk is on May 8 at SeaWorld. Registration for the event is $35 for adults and $25 for children. Participants will also receive discounted tickets for SeaWorld. For more information and to register, visit   

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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