JACKSONVILLE, FL | October 4, 2023
Patricia Fitzpatrick, of Jacksonville, was at work in early 2015 when she noticed she couldn’t take a full, deep breath. After an hour of pain, she called her daughter, Kimberlee, and went to the emergency room where her husband met them.
She was worried. She thought of herself as healthy – she rarely took a sick day. She thought she was having a heart attack, but her EKG was normal. Then, her CT scan revealed tumors on both lungs. She was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, the most advanced form of lung cancer. Her medical team gave her one to three years to live. She and her family prepared for the worst.
“I didn’t know anyone who had cancer – let alone lung cancer,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “It felt like a death sentence.”
Fitzpatrick’s initial three-month chemotherapy treatment was successful. Her medical team then recommended an immunotherapy drug that had been recently approved at the time of her diagnosis. She emphatically agreed with the treatment – anything to get her more time with her family. As a result, her cancer went into remission in 2017.
She has credited the cutting-edge research of organizations like the American Lung Association and its partners with her survivor story.
“It’s all about the research – that’s why I’m still here,” she said. “I got lucky with the timing of the immunotherapy drug approval. And there is so much still being done – trials, implants, new therapies – it’s amazing.”
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. In Florida, it is estimated that more than 19,300 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and nearly 10,200 people will die from the disease.
However, there is hope. More Americans than ever are surviving lung cancer. The survival rate has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last decade. The 10th annual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk, presented by Jazz Pharmaceuticals, on October 14 drives the Lung Association’s efforts to end lung cancer through lifesaving research, education and advocacy.
After a chance meeting with a Lung Association in Florida representative at a tabling event in her office in 2018, she has been on a mission to raise awareness and funds to fuel critical research and early detection initiatives.
“I went from never having met another person with lung cancer to collaborating with other survivors and advocates at events across the state,” she said. “I even went with the Lung Association to Washington, D.C. for LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day to advocate on behalf of lung cancer patients everywhere. It’s a whole chapter of my life that I never thought I’d have.”
Unexpectedly, Fitzpatrick’s cancer journey wasn’t over. Earlier this year, a CT scan showed a tumor in a lymph node under her arm and a very small one above her collarbone. The lymph node was removed, and the tumor was found to be cancerous – the same kind of cancer that had been found in her lungs years earlier.
After 31 rounds of radiation, Fitzpatrick is once again cancer free, and she is living her life to the fullest and continuing her mission to end lung cancer.
Join Fitzpatrick, Kimberlee and hundreds of other lung health advocates from Jacksonville and beyond at the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk on October 14. To learn more, and register, visit LUNGFORCE.org/Jacksonville.
“The LUNG FORCE Run/Walk raises funds to save lives – here in Florida and beyond,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’m living proof.”
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, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.
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