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Ellen S.

My name is Ellen Schafer. I am a retired oncology nurse by profession. I can not count the times I have witnessed the devastation a cancer diagnosis brings to a patient and their families. Smoking is usually the root of ones lung cancer diagnosis. It can lead to other illnesses too. I Chaired the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life 12 years. I wanted to help raise dollars to find a cure for lung cancer before it affected my life personally.

My mother was a smoker. She started at the age of 16 out behind the barn when her older brothers got her started. I always knew in the back of my mind that one day lung cancer would hit our family, and prayed it would never happen. I had other relatives who died from lung cancer too, but none hit me as hard as the day I was in the doctor's office and my mom was told that she had lung cancer. My mom was so strong and I cried. I asked my mom how she could be so strong and her reply was she had "prepared for this day my whole life."

The year was 2006. I had also been asked by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with our congressional members. As the summer wore on, I could see mom was getting much weaker and I knew my place was by her side, and told my mom I would not go to Washington. My mom told me, "Don't worry...You'll go...You have to go...You have to speak for Me."

Four days after my mom died, I boarded a plane for Washington D.C. I learned the power one voice has in the fight against cancer and I have not looked back. I continue to be a strong voice for cancer patients where ever I can. I am a witness to the hold cigarettes can have. Our family had nine months with my mom after she was diagnosed. I see smoking being passed from one generation to another generation in our family -- my sisters smoke and some of their children also smoke. Unfortunately more research dollars and early screening tests are needed to help detect lung cancer early.

Today I speak for my mom, and relatives who have and have died from cancer. I speak for the countless patients and their families I have cared for over the years. We need more voices in this fight against cancer and I am proud to use my voice.

First published: January 17, 2018

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