I am from Amesbury, MA, married and the mother of three boys ages 15, 13, and 8.
In the spring of 2004, a family friend, Susan Levinksy, a non-smoker, 43 years old and mother of 3, was diagnosed with stage IIIB lung cancer. I was shocked and thought it was a fluke as I had never heard of a nonsmoker getting lung cancer. I was completely ignorant to how prevalent this disease was and how dismal the survival rates were. So in October of the same year, at the age of 42, I was taken aback when I too was diagnosed with lung cancer, Stage I, non-small cell lung cancer.
We found my lung cancer purely by chance when I pulled a back muscle picking up my thenone year old son and a CT scan was ordered to rule out a pulmonary embolism. An active, otherwise healthy mother of three, I had never considered myself at risk for lung cancer. I had a lobectomy, where my upper lobe of my left lung was removed, followed by 3 months of adjuvant chemo. In 2006, my lung cancer reoccurred and is now in both of my lungs. Although I am stage IV, I consider myself incredibly blessed.
In January 2005, while I was going through my second round of chemo, Susan died. It was a mere nine months after she was diagnosed. I was devastated. Having learned much more about the disease and its impact during my treatment and recovery, I was determined to be the voice for Susan and for others that had succumbed to this disease. I was determined to educate others and raise awareness of the disease.
Lung Cancer Alliance’s mission resonated with me; patient support, awareness & changing health care policy. I became Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Chapter of Lung Cancer Alliance, which has recently become the New England Chapter. In 2006, I started Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil in Boston to honor and remember those who have been touched by the disease and to raise awareness. Last year there were 83 vigils in 33 states and in two countries to Shine a Light on Lung Cancer and bring it out of the shadows.
Lung cancer can be a very lonely disease due to the stigma it carries. After being diagnosed with lung cancer and learning the statistics, I was stunned by the lack of research that had been done, the lack of progress relative to screening and survival rates, and the lack of understanding by the general public, medical community, and government about the disease itself. I am committed to speaking out about the devastation that lung cancer is having on our families today and to raising awareness in order to change the face of this disease.