‘No One is Immune;” Local Woman Raises Awareness that Anyone Can Get Lung Cancer

Atlanta resident Karen Baumbach is a healthy, active woman who didn’t have any symptoms when she was given a surprising diagnosis – lung cancer. Now she is raising awareness through the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Run/Walk that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.

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.

“The radiologist had looked closer at the x-ray and found a spot. The report said that it looked like crushed glass, and that it wasn’t indicative of cancer, but that cancer couldn’t be ruled out,” she said.

Baumbach had a CT scan, and doctors scheduled another scan three months later to see if the spot had grown. The second scan revealed that the spot hadn’t grown, but since it remained, they did a bronchoscopy.

“They thought it was infection. I was able to put it out of my mind because I was totally asymptomatic. I didn’t have a cough or shortness of breath,” she said. “I have been very blessed with good health. I am active, I keep my weight under control, and I eat well.”

Then 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.

“I am definitely one of the blessed ones. The good Lord decided that it wasn’t my time. I wake up every morning and say, ‘thank you Lord for today.’ In life, we don’t get to choose what gets thrown at us,” she said.

This month, she is participating in the virtual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk in Atlanta to raise awareness that anyone can get lung cancer, and also to raise money for critical lung cancer research.

“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.”

This year’s LUNG FORCE Run/Walk will include a virtual 5K run/walk, happening now through November 30, and a socially distanced scavenger hunt that will take place in downtown City of Decatur that kicks off on October 19. More information is available on the Atlanta LUNG FORCE Run/Walk website.  

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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