I am a sad today. A woman that I knew and admired died this week after an 11 year battle with lung cancer.
In 2010 I chaired the American Lung Association Fight for Air luncheon with my friend Elaine. Our goal was to raise money for lung cancer research. As I've shared before, I lost my dear friend Patti to lung cancer and I wanted to do something in honor of her life. It is traditional for a survivor of lung cancer to speak at luncheons like this, but sadly, there are so few survivors, the speakers are limited. In 2009 Dr. Deborah Morrisini, Dana Reeve's (wife of Christopher Reeve) sister and leader in lung cancer research, was the speaker. At that luncheon I was asked to share my story about Patti and that experience cemented a wonderful relationship with Deborah and put me on a journey as an advocate for finding a cure for lung cancer.
As we planned the 2010 luncheon, we were pleased to learn that Kathryn Joosten was available to speak at our luncheon. She was a miracle on two feet! She had survived lung cancer two times! That is very rare. As chairman of the event, I hosted a party the evening before the event at my home for the sponsors and Ms. Joosten. I hadn't watched Desperate Housewives and didn't remember her from West Wing, so I didn't know what to expect. When she arrived she reminded me of my aunt - actually everyone's aunt. She was warm and funny and greeted everyone as if she had just arrived at a family reunion. She stole our hearts.
The next day at the luncheon she shared her story and we laughed and cried and then laughed some more. She managed something that I've seldom seen at a similar function. When she finished speaking, we wanted to hear more! She had educated us while entertaining us - a rare ability!
After the luncheon I learned that she had found out just that week that the lung cancer had reappeared. She'd been cancer free two times before in her battle with the disease and each time it had reoccurred. This was the third time. When she told me she immediately said, "I've beat it two times before and I will be it this time!"
Her attitude was positive and I could read in her bright blue dancing eyes that she meant it - and I believed her.
That was 2 years and 3 months ago. If you know anything about lung cancer you know that she won the battle for much longer than most.
My friend Patti lived only 3 months as her diagnosis.
Lung cancer is a brutal disease. It attacks both those that have smoked and those that didn't, like my friend Patti.
- Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States. In 1987, it surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women
It is likely that you don't know many people living with lung cancer simply because there aren't many.
Also as I advocated for education about lung cancer, many people shared that lung cancer is a disease people get when they smoke and in turn that means that in a way they deserve it. Immediately I was shocked that anyone could think like that and secondly I knew from my experience that many people die each year of lung cancer and yet have never used tobacco in any form.
As I shared the statistics many people looked at me with skepticism. I was often told that they knew far more people with breast or colon or some other form of cancer. I then had to explain - it's not that more people get lung cancer than other cancers - it's that more people die of lung cancer than any other form of cancer. Most often by the time a patient is diagnosed, it is too late. That is the reason knowing the symptoms is vital.
It all about education.
So in honor of Kathryn's battle with lung cancer and her years of advocacy, I will share a couple of links. Please take time to look at them and then become an advocate for yourself and your loved ones.
Symptoms of lung disease.
National Cancer Institute
Living and mourning with Grace...and i'm grace
Tue, June 5, 2012
by Grace Lane