“Gail, what’s with this cough you have that won’t go away? Why are you getting so tired lately? You work out all the time and are in great shape, just go to the doctor since it has to be something simple they can fix with a shot. Must be something like pneumonia or some simple virus you just can’t shake. What do you mean you have to go for x-rays? They’re admitting you to the hospital? You’re having a scan to look for what?”
Then the emergency room doctor walks in and says in a very matter of fact tone, “It’s a tumor in your lung.” Life just stops and we’re next looking right at the freight train coming at us a million miles an hour.
Find an oncologist. Put a port in your chest. Start chemotherapy and continue for ten rounds. Get told after chemo stops working, “If you don’t do radiation therapy, you have about a week to live.” Twenty five radiation treatments follow. Get your affairs in order. Get married, because you know time is running out.
And then just 363 days after we heard “it’s a tumor,” you’re gone.
That’s how fast lung cancer wrecks lives. That’s how fast I lost the love of my life.
How did this happen? Why couldn’t more be done? 46 years old when they diagnosed you with this horrible disease. We were supposed to grow old together and be there for each other and now you’re gone. While going through treatment we learned how horrible the survival rates are. How can that be? Haven’t people been researching this for years now? What’s been going on for the past 40 years? You learn the facts. Things like more people in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer and yet it is one of the least funded for research or that one in fourteen will get this disease and you know that this is just unacceptable. So what can I do about it?
Well the answer is a lot and by doing something very simple. In looking for answers after her passing, I found the Give A Scan program and was very impressed that the focus was on being the world’s first patient-powered open access database for lung cancer research. It was a no brainer to ask for her scans to be collected together and sent in to be part of this database. It was as simple as contacting her doctors for some details that I needed to add to the questionnaire, making a phone call to the hospital for a copy of her scans and finally taking the time to mail it. How hard is that, maybe a couple of hours?
Gail was worried before she passed away that her nieces and nephews, we have nine of them, wouldn’t remember her when she was gone, but I told her they’ll remember because of all the great stories we have of her when she was right here with us, but a bigger part of her legacy just might be in those scans. Maybe some research team might find better treatments or even a cure, so that our nieces and nephews might live in a world where they never have to hear those nightmare words, “It’s a tumor in your lung.”
So that’s my hope after losing her. Maybe something good can come out of something horrific. I wished I never had to be on this path, but it happened and I can’t change losing Gail. I decided to honor her and to make sure future generations might have more hope than we did by choosing to participate in this program and send in her scans and treatment history. It’s my hope many others might read this and will choose to help in these research efforts as well. Those lucky enough to survive and those who have lost someone close to them can easily choose to join me and make a difference as well. It’s so very simple and the cost is just your time. Trust me…you’ll feel better doing it.
Thank you to the Lung Cancer Alliance for collecting this data and advocating for research, better care for patients and hopefully a cure, but most importantly, God bless all of you whose lives have been touched in some way by lung cancer. You each know all too well the horrors of this disease. It’s time for us to now pick up the fight for those who no longer can and I hope you’ll be inspired to also participate in the Give A Scan program so maybe future generations can say, “Remember when lung cancer couldn’t be prevented or cured?” I hope it will be Gail’s nieces and nephews who are the ones saying it.