Help Shine the Light Against Lung Cancer
By Tara Kocourek, RN, Clinic Manager, Avera Medical Group Oncology & Hematology Clinic
Receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer is life-changing. Cancer does not discriminate – regardless of age, race, gender, family or smoking history, this disease can happen to anyone.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and one of the unique aspects of this form of cancer is the stigma attached to it. Unlike other cancers, lung cancer is almost always connected to smoking.
While smoking increases the risk of many cancers, not just those found in the lungs, because of the stigma, many patients who receive a lung cancer diagnosis may feel as though they are not as valuable as patients facing other types of cancer.
As a child, my grandmother and mother were both smokers, and being so young, I didn’t realize this as any “big deal.” But shortly after my grandmother was diagnosed with esophageal and lung cancer, I began to realize that smoking could have been the culprit behind her illnesses. As my family stepped in to help my grandmother, taking her to appointments and treatments, or to the pharmacy, we still did not closely consider her smoking history.
Instead, we thought about her fight, the love we had for her and the desires we had to spend as much time with her as could. Regardless of where the disease is found, a cancer diagnosis affects the people we love the most, be it a mother, sister, brother, grandmother or grandfather, uncle or aunt. Watching our loved ones battle a disease hurts.
The other side of the lung cancer stigma is that it’s diagnosed in people that have never smoked. It also affects current smokers and people that have quit. The grim truth is that lung cancer takes more lives each year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. It’s also one of the most prevalent cancer forms in our region, yet it’s among those we talk about the least. Unfortunately, it also has the lowest amount of research funding across the entire spectrum of cancer.
Family members, patient and caretaker come together as one in this fight.
An event on Nov. 8 will do just that: bring together many individuals who together hope to “shine the light" on lung cancer. Please consider joining us for the 2018 Shine a Light Lung Cancer Awareness event. It begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Prairie Center on the campus of Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls.
By joining us, you can help us honor and support those affected by lung cancer. This event began in 2012, when a young woman lost both parents to lung cancer. She asked for our help in organizing and hosting an event to honor not only the parents she loved, but all who need our support and aid in the face of this disease.
The passion of this one young woman has allowed us to continue ongoing efforts to raise awareness of this significant cancer threat in our region. Patients, employees and loved ones will join together and personify the lung cancer community, and in doing so will support those who survive and those who continue to fight as a unified community.
The free event includes a supper, and will include remarks from Benjamin Solomon, MD, a physician with Avera Medical Group Oncology & Hematology. He will discuss the advancements of lung care and the current clinical trial in which Avera Cancer Institute has an important role.
An important part of Shine the Light is the heart-warming nature of ceremonies designed to honor those we have lost, those we are still fighting for and the future patients we will continue to stand beside in their fight.