Orlando Lung Cancer Survivors Meet with Congress to Advocate for Lifesaving Research, Public Health Infrastructure and Access to Quality HealthcareStephanie Malecki and Kathleen Skambis join volunteers from across America to advocate for lung cancer patients everywhere
ORLANDO, FL | April 11, 2022
Orlando residents and lung cancer survivors, Stephanie Malecki and Kathleen Skambis spoke with their members of Congress last week during the American Lung Association LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day. As a part of the nationwide event, Malecki and Skambis joined more than 50 people across the country who have been impacted by lung cancer to advocate for $49 billion in research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $11B in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to protect expanded access to quality, affordable healthcare.
Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 Advocacy Day was conducted virtually to allow this important message to be heard while also protecting the health and safety of patients and caregivers. During the virtual Advocacy Day, Malecki and Skambis spoke with staff from Senators Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio's offices, as well as staff from Representative Scott Franklin’s, Representative Stephanie Murphy's and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz's offices to share their personal experiences with lung cancer and explain why investments in public health, research funding, and quality and affordable healthcare are important to them.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, Malecki was diagnosed with lung cancer after more than a year of being short of breath, being diagnosed with a cold, bronchitis and walking pneumonia. “I knew something was wrong but as a 37-year-old female with no history of smoking, smoke exposure, or other risk factors, I simply didn't fit what people consider the "typical" lung cancer profile,” shares Malecki. “How? Why? Unfortunately, very few answers are available, and my research led me to understand that women are disproportionately impacted by lung cancer and what most people consider high-risk factors simply aren't appearing in some patient profiles,” remarks Malecki.
“There isn't enough research to understand why yet, and that needs to change. I have two young daughters and we need to find answers for me, for them, for all of us. We need to remove the stigma surrounding lung cancer, secure the research dollars needed, and better understand this disease that impacts such a large portion of our population, and kills more than any other cancer,” shares Malecki.
Jump back more than 20 years, and Skambis was just as surprised as Malecki by her lung cancer diagnosis. As a young mother, planning a wedding, busy career Skambis caught the flu. With symptoms persisting, Skambis’s husband insisted she have a chest x-ray that showed a mass in the upper right lung the size of a golf ball. “Because I had never smoked and was only 41 years old, the doctors thought I had a fungal growth or round pneumonia,” shares Skambis. Skambis later traveled to a major cancer center where she learned she had non-small cell lung cancer and despite positive treatment also learned that she had a zero percent chance of surviving five years. “I decided that the statistics were unreliable and that someone had to live for more than five years. They say I am cured. I want people to know that the only statistic that matters is the one that you live to create. No one deserves lung cancer. Everyone deserves to have a fighting chance when they are diagnosed,” remarks Skambis.
It is estimated that in 2022 alone, there will be more than 19,560 Florida residents diagnosed with lung cancer, but there is hope. More people than ever are surviving lung cancer in part because patients and caregivers are urging their policymakers to take action. That’s why Stephanie Malecki and Kathleen Skambis are sharing their stories 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.
Malecki and Skambis encourage others in Orlando to advocate for lung cancer research and healthcare protections by contacting their members of Congress, which they can do at Lungforce.org/AdvocacyDay. Learn more about Malecki and Skambis’s stories and the LUNG FORCE initiative at LUNGFORCE.org.
For media interested in learning more about LUNG FORCE or scheduling an interview with Stephanie Malecki or Kathleen Skambis or a lung cancer expert, contact Jill Smith at [email protected] or call 704-818-4138.
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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