By Sadie Hansen, Oncology Program Coordinator, Avera Cancer Institute

November, next month, is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. The official color of lung cancer awareness is clear, but it might as well be invisible to most Americans. There is a stigma attached to this diagnosis that is not present with other cancers. If you tell a friend or colleague that a loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer, the first response almost always is “Did they smoke?” Any other type of cancer diagnosis will elicit a response of pure sympathy.

Researchers are on the verge of a seismic shift in our ability to diagnose and treat lung cancer and more funding is desperately needed to bring these promising new therapies to fruition. Lung cancer takes more lives each year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined, but is one of the least funded cancers. The good news is there are ways you and I can change this!

Each year my colleagues and I host a Shine a Light on Lung Cancer event where we work, Avera Cancer Institute. It gives those touched by lung cancer a platform to raise awareness, learn more about the disease and connect with community members and healthcare professionals alike.

It all started in 2012 when a young lady who had lost both her parents to lung cancer brought the event to our attention.  She helped get it started and her passion continued through other advocates over the years with a goal of raising awareness for lung cancer and bringing the community together.

What does our event this year look like? It includes an educational piece, panel discussion and a heart-warming ceremony to honor those we have lost. We are excited about our topic “Don’t Let Cancer Steal Your Joy: How to Live Well Each Day with Cancer.” The impact of a cancer diagnosis is felt on every level. While the treatment we receive from our oncologist helps us to heal and treat our cancer at a physical level, there is also great importance in healing emotionally throughout the cancer journey. Dr. Ted James MD, MS and Julia Wick, MS, LCMHC have begun a national campaign on finding joy despite the harsh realities of cancer. Our ultimate goal for the event is to support patients and families seeking to optimize their quality of life as cancer survivors.

Last year’s event brought about 150 people and we hope to see even more this year!

Attend Sadie’s Shine a Light event on November 9th in Sioux Falls, South Dakota or find an event near you! If you are interested in starting an event at your local healthcare facility contact Maggie at