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In August of 2008, at 65 years old, I was undergoing physical therapy at a medical facility, where I noticed a poster advertising low-dose CT scans for early detection of lung cancer. I was a former smoker for at least 20 years and even though I had quit more than 10 years before, I knew that I was at risk for lung cancer. In spite of experiencing no symptoms, I decided to have the scan, and it saved my life.
A very small nodule was visible in my left lung, but it was too small for a biopsy. So I had to wait three months before I could get another scan. Even then, the nodule was only slightly larger and still not large enough to biopsy. Thankfully, my surgeon suggested removing it. A pathologist tested the nodule in the operating room and because it was malignant, my surgeon removed the lower lobe of my left lung. The cancer was at stage 1A and required no treatment. I have a follow-up scan yearly, and have been blessed to remain cancer-free.
Lung cancer changed my life completely. I began to focus on being a survivor, not only for my husband and me, but for my children and grandchildren as well. Because I appreciated this blessing that I had been given, I began volunteering at a hospital in a cancer support group. I became involved with the American Lung Association in their "Faces of Lung Cancer" initiative, and participated in two American Lung Association Fight for Air Walk events. The more I learned about lung cancer, the more I wanted to try to make a difference. I learned that every five minutes, a woman in the United States is told she has lung cancer; that it is the number-one cancer killer of women in our country, surpassing breast cancer in 1987; and that the lung cancer death rate in women has doubled in the past 35 years. It's a fact: Any man or woman, at any time, at any age, can get lung cancer.
My motto — S.O.A.P., Stay Optimistic And Positive — gave me the determination and commitment to do what I could to raise awareness, to advocate for research dollars, and to fight the stigma associated with lung cancer. I joined with other health advocates and lung cancer survivors and tried to form a non-profit group to help others going through the same experiences, with the same feelings and emotions that I went through after my lung cancer diagnosis. Eight years later, my family and faith continue to motivate me to try to make a difference. My goal is to remain at the forefront in the fight against lung cancer.