I was always a fan of Cinderella. My favorite version included the talking, sewing and conniving mice that helped make her dress and changed the pumpkin into a carriage!
That’s why it’s funny to me that someone told me I’d had the “Cinderella” of lung cancer stories. There was no glass slipper and I already had my Prince Charming but it was magical or more likely a miracle.
In December 2009, I gassed myself with a noxious mixture of ammonia and bleach while cleaning our home bathroom, which sent me wheezing and coughing to my internist. He didn’t think I had pneumonia but ordered a chest x-ray anyway. No pneumonia but the radiologist noted a “nodule” in my right upper lobe. PET scan was negative so obviously I had breathed in something that had calcified and was now showing on an x-ray. On the advice of my doctor, over two years I had a series of CT scans to make sure there wasn’t anything growing in there.
March 2010 CT scan unchanged. September 2010 CT … nodule had grown by 30%. Wuh, what?
One second opinion, two surgical consults and one VATS surgery later, that nodule turned out to be an EGFR gene mutation positive, adenocarcinoma. I am so grateful that today, over three years later, I am still lung cancer free. I’m also free of the right upper lobe of my lung but, hey, I learned I still had four others! Had I not gassed myself, well who knows?
I very quickly learned that I was a minority in the world of lung cancer patients. I say minority because mine was found in stage 1A. More often than not, lung cancer is not found until stage 4. The more I thought about it, the more this fact bothered me. I felt a passion rising up in me to be a voice for all the voices silenced too soon and too often.
I was so disappointed to find that there was no pink army to join in the fight against lung cancer. Actually it wasn’t disappointment, it was anger and frustration. It was at that point that I found Lung Cancer Alliance and partnered with them to bring the first national chapter of a lung cancer organization to Tennessee. That was August 2012.
For me, the hardest part of creating a lung cancer support community is connecting with lung cancer survivors. It’s been my experience that the smoking stigma associated with a lung cancer diagnosis causes the smokers and former smokers to retreat while those who were non-smokers don’t know where to turn. Our hope is to reach everyone whose life has been interrupted by lung cancer with support and compassion and raise awareness in Nashville about lung cancer–the disease.
So I thought, why not raise some awareness by bringing Team Lung Love to the Women’s Half Marathon and 5K to Nashville in September. I envisioned a sea of Team Lung Love runners and more cheerleaders along the course than any other running group!
Then I thought, why don’t I run the 13.1 miles for lung cancer?!? I ran the Women’s Half Marathon back in 2010. It was just 10 days before my surgery and I remember thanking my right upper lobe for its service, just in case. Why not do it again?!?
I’ve walked a half marathon since then. It took me four hours! That’s just way too long to do anything!! My time in 2010 was 2 hours and 45 minutes. I’m going to try and beat it this year!! Let the training (insert insanity) begin!!
Jenny White, lung cancer survivor
Chapter Director for Lung Cancer Alliance- Tennessee
You can support Jenny’s run here!