Several days ago, I got a text message telling me that a former colleague and friend had passed away unexpectedly. I had seen her recently and she was her usual happy self. We made plans to get together for lunch soon. I guess none of us realized that her days here on earth were coming to a close. …More
Okay, this post is probably going to have a lot of people looking at me and thinking I have gone stark-raving crazy. But, here goes anyway!
What would life without cancer be like?
I participate in a forum whose participants have all kinds of different cancers. Today, a post was made that asked, “Do you get wrapped up in thinking about what might have been if cancer hadn’t come?” The person who asked the question is livid that she has cancer.
Five years ago today, May 8, 2013, I quit getting chemotherapy. I have to say, it was a happy, happy day for me to learn that I would not be getting chemo any longer. Chemo and I … we didn’t deal well with one another. No matter how many anti-nausea pills I took, no matter how long I took steroids, no matter what, I was sick, sick, sick from my treatments.
I’ve never been a sickly person. At all. I didn’t even have a primary care doctor that fateful day when I finally went in to see why I kept gaining weight … and we discovered that I had late-stage lung cancer. I hadn’t seen a doctor for 10 years or more (yeah, I’m one of those people who definitely didn’t take care of themselves with regular screenings or anything else).
So, when I was so sick from chemo, I didn’t deal well with it. I don’t know, maybe even if I had been more sickly, I still wouldn’t have dealt well with it! There were times, many times, when I wondered if it was even worth going through the treatments. I was spending way too much of my very limited time (my oncologist projected 4 months before I passed away) in bed, too sick to eat or drink or do anything except try to sleep away the misery.
At the same time as I was celebrating the fact that I was getting a break from chemotherapy, there was definitely some fear associated with quitting treatments! No treatments meant nothing was being done to hold those tumors at bay. Sure, they’d responded and shrunk some during treatments, but that was because we were bombarding them with poisons!
My doctor hoped that I could take a break from the chemo and that the tumors would stay stable or, if they grew, would do so slowly. Unfortunately, as we would discover when I had my next scan, his hopes were not realized. All of the progress we had made against the tumors was lost during the short time I was not receiving treatments.
As I sit here today, pondering my life and the fact that I am still here, I am grateful that I was diagnosed with my cancer when I was. It is sobering to think that if I had been diagnosed only one year earlier, I would probably be dead.
Stop and think about that for just a moment. It is hard to think about. And, many of us have friends and loved ones who have succumbed to the disease, even recently. They were diagnosed too soon to be saved. Why? Well, partly because lung cancer is a really tricky disease. You often don’t have symptoms until you have only months left to live. So, doctors are faced with an uphill battle because late-stage cancer is really difficult to treat.
Another reason why we are still losing way too many of those diagnosed with lung cancer is because it is so very severely underfunded. Researchers are making such tremendous progress in finding new ways to treat this insidious disease, but they are limited by the lack of money available to them. It boggles my mind to think about what they could be doing if they had the kind of money that breast cancer or prostate cancer gets each year.
So, the purpose of this post is two-fold. First, I want to thank everyone who generously gives to help fund research. You are quite literally lifesavers. If not for your heart and your help, people like me would not have had cutting-edge therapies to try when chemotherapy quit working. Thank you, thank you, thank you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
The second is that I want to encourage everyone to give to lung cancer research. It doesn’t have to be much. If everyone I know gave only $5 or $10, it would add up to a reasonable amount of money. If they shared with their friends and their friends gave only $5 or $10, the cost of a Starbucks and a donut, the funding would begin to snowball and just think of where we might be in finding … dare I say … cures … or, at least, therapies that could help treat this disease as a chronic illness instead of the killer it still is.
It hurts my feelings and boggles my mind that I have so much trouble getting people to give to this cause. It hurts my feelings because I take it very personally. It’s MY LIFE I am advocating for! Opdivo is keeping me alive right now. But, when it quits working, there is not another treatment for me to try. Selfishly, I want researchers well-funded so that I have some more options when that time comes.
It boggles my mind because even those who contact me and want me to pray for or talk to a loved one of theirs who has been diagnosed don’t give toward finding better therapies. If not those who either have someone living with or who has died from lung cancer, then who can we expect to help fund life-saving research?
Where can you donate? A few of the foundations that I support are:
LUNGevity (if there is a way to designate that you’re donating on my behalf, please do!)
Lung Cancer Research Foundation (where Free to Breathe merged) – I will be posting a link to a donation site on my behalf soon)
Lung Cancer Alliance (if there is a way to designate that you’re donating on my behalf, please do!)
Cancer Research Institute (not lung cancer specific, but cutting edge in immunotherapy)
I am on a forum with people who have all kinds of cancer. A lot of the members have had breast cancer so many posts there relate to issues concerning that disease.
Recently, someone posted a message saying that the federal government’s Office on Women’s Health (OWH) had deleted all references to breast cancer, despite once having a rather robust amount of information available. Those with breast cancer were quite upset about the information being removed. Honestly, I thought it was a little odd, too, that it would be removed.
About the Life and Breath Rally
Needed: EVERYONE — No joke. We need everyone’s voice and support.
Date: Thursday, April 26, 2018
Time: 10 a.m. to noon
Place: Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
(First St. SE & Independence Ave. SE – on the east side of the Capitol building)
Nearest Metro Stop: Capitol South on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines
Register here: https://www.LABrally.eventbrite.com
Everyone needs to try to come if they can ! If we don’t raise awareness, who will? We have to get the word out that funding for lung cancer is not equitable and that people with lungs get lung cancer, not just smokers!!
If you cannot attend, please, please, please write to your legislators. If enough of us demand equitable funding for this national disgrace, it will happen.
Remember, 1 in 17 women and 1 in 16 men will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Which one of your friends or family members will it be? Don’t you hope that there is a treatment, if not a cure, to save them?
Lung cancer affects us all. And it is up to each and every one of us to do our part to see equitable funding for research.
I was just looking at my Facebook memories. I love those! I find myself posting things I want to remember to Facebook now so that they will show up in my memories in the future. Am I the only person who does that? More…
A few years ago, I wrote a number of blog posts for Patient Power. I am going to provide links to them on my blog. Happiness is My Normal was originally posted 4/28/2016
I write to Congress fairly often in hopes of convincing them to throw more support toward lung cancer research. But, I wonder if my time wouldn’t be better spent writing to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?
Here’s why I ask. I received a response to one of my letters from my senator, John Cornyn, that actually included some potentially valuable information. He wrote,
As you know, entities such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are charged with allocating federal research dollars toward research and initiatives that will advance prevention and successfully treat diseases and health conditions. I believe Congress plays an important role in overseeing the distribution of these monies and must ensure they are wisely spent.¹(emphasis mine)
Should we not then be concentrating some of our efforts to advocating the CDC and the NIH to allocate more of the research dollars they receive to lung cancer? I mean, I know we need to talk to Congress about budgeting the dollars for NIH or CDC, but once there, I am not sure their researchers feel a real need to fund lung cancer.
I base my theory, in part, on a statement made by the NIH to Cure Magazine in August 2017. I was angry and incredulous when I read:
According to the National Institutes of Health, lung cancer received about $250 million in recent years in research funding annually, and it claimed 25 percent of all cancer deaths. That means that about $1,700 is spent for every person who dies each year from lung cancer. That spending rate is much higher for other forms of cancer.
Leukemia receives about $240 million a year and accounts for about 4 percent of cancer deaths. That means almost $10,000 is spent for every person who dies of leukemia. For breast cancer, that number is about $13,000.
The NIH states that funding is provided to research based on its scientific merits, not the type of cancer it targets. (emphasis mine)²
Lung cancer kills more people than the next three biggest cancer killers combined: prostate, breast, and colon. The NIH surely sees breast cancer as a worthy cause to fund. Are the researchers seeking funds that target breast cancer that much better grant writers or trial designers than those seeking money for lung cancer research? I sincerely doubt it.
If you wish to make your voice heard by the NIH, contact information for the Director is:
Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD
BG 1 RM 118A
1 Center Dr
Bethesda, MD 20814
You can contact the CDC at:
Anne Schuchat, MD, Acting Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027
The National Cancer Institute’s contact information is:
Mr. Cornyn further advised me that he does not sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee so has little jurisdiction over how the annual appropriations bill will be allocated.
So, I guess my next question is to you. Does your senator sit on the Appropriations Committee? Please click on the link and send your Senator a letter if he or she is on the committee.
¹Letter from John Cornyn to Donna Fernandez (email@example.com), dated 02/09/2018
²T Keenan. “The American Lung Association Seeks to End Stigma.” Cure Magazine. August 11, 2017. https://www.curetoday.com/articles/the-american-lung-association-seeks-to-end-stigma. Accessed 3/4/2018