By Jenny White
I was in pure shock when my surgeon told me “it’s lung cancer,” while in recovery after video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) that was performed to find out what was growing in the right upper lobe of my lung.
Because I had no risk factors for this diagnosis, obviously my next move was to google “lung cancer.” How did this happen to me? I thought I was doing everything right. I was living in the healthy lane. I watched my diet, exercised regularly, drank in moderation and was even training for the first Women’s Half Marathon in Nashville, TN scheduled just 10 days before my surgery.
But, how did this happen to me? I didn’t smoke.
Well, as it turns out, if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. I also quickly realized that being diagnosed at stage 1, and removing the cancer surgically, was fairly rare in the scheme of lung cancer. Only about 17% of the time.
The facts made it clear to me that I had to use my voice to bring awareness to this disease. The only reason my lung cancer was found early was because I foolishly combined bleach and ammonia to clean my bathroom which landed me in the hospital. That serendipitous moment caused my physician to order a chest x-ray which lead to the radiologist noticing a small “something” which we watched over the next 10 months. It grew, was removed surgically and now I am 6 1/2 years cancer free.
I knew how lucky I was and wanted to do something to help others. Where was my “pink army”? I wanted to enlist. I thought it made perfect sense to check out the websites of what I thought were the major players in lung cancer to see what advocacy opportunities existed. Sadly, the only mention of lung cancer was under smoking cessation.
With a little more searching, I found Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA), which is based out of Washington, DC. I love that part of their mission is to advocate for more lung cancer research funding from the federal government. Through their National Advocacy Summit, I get to tell my story, educate my representatives and ask for their help in further funding lung cancer research.
That fluke accident while cleaning my bathroom was nothing less than serendipity! Maybe it was God working in unexpected ways or maybe I was always a cause waiting to happen. Either way, I’m just happy to be here.