CHARLOTTE, NC | March 29, 2023
“I was a healthy mother of three, a wife, a Navy veteran, and a practicing nurse anesthetist of 37 years,” shares Speight. “My life abruptly changed after being diagnosed in 2017 with Stage IV lung cancer. The medical opinion was that I had 4 months to live. I was devastated. I had never smoked and had believed that non-smokers didn’t get lung cancer. No physician I had ever seen for my routine yearly screenings had ever suggested I had any risk, or that I needed any screening exams for lung cancer.”
“Only weeks into my diagnosis I was already unable to breath or walk any distance. Biomarker (genomic) testing confirmed a RET mutation that was known to drive the cancer. Through extensive research my husband found a physician who was studying the RET driver mutation. A few months later I was in the Termeer Center in Boston receiving a targeted therapy in a Phase 1 drug trial.”
“I’m here five years later, not with my health restored, but with my cancer held in check.”
“My story of survivorship is unusual for its critical path of testing, discovery of a clinical trial and just-in-time treatment. It is indicative of how fast diagnostics and therapeutics are advancing due to active research and the acute need for expanding the use of comprehensive genomic testing and access to clinical trials.”
“My personal motto and encouragement to others is ‘NEVER give up, ALWAYS have hope, and LIVE your life.’ ”
During Advocacy Day, Speight plans to speak with Senator Ted Budd, Senator Thom Tillis and Representative Kathy Manning 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.
The American Lung Association launched LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day in 2016 to ask members of Congress to support robust, sustainable and predictable federal funding increases for lung cancer research, prevention and quality and affordable healthcare. As a part of Advocacy Day, LUNG FORCE Heroes have succeeded in helping increase NIH lung cancer research funding by over 115%. Since 2016, more than 50 new therapies have been approved by the FDA to treat lung cancer --- giving more hope to thos impacted by this disease. In 2022, Heroes successfully urged Congress to extend funding for tax credits so more than three million Americans were able to keep affordable healthcare coverage through the federal and state marketplaces.
Speight encourages others in North Carolina to advocate for lung cancer research and healthcare protections by contacting their members of Congress, which they can do at Lung.org/AdvocacyDay. Learn more about Speight’s 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, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-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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