Love Makes the Difference for a New Hampshire Couple

A New Hampshire couple shares their unique perspectives after a husband’s lung cancer diagnosis.

By Rick Thompson

On Aug. 25, 2003, my wife Janet and I  celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  It was a happy time as we were surrounded  by family and friends. We decided to renew  our wedding vows and we did just that, in  the same church where we first said those  words.

Just 13 days later our lives forever changed.

On Sunday, Sept. 7th, in the early afternoon, I collapsed on our living room floor with a severe pain in my chest. I didn’t know it then, but my left lung had collapsed.

The day before I had a pain in my left shoulder. I just wrote it off as a sore shoulder. It was a hot September weekend and I sat in front of a fan while I did some work. I figured I would only be about a half hour so there was no sense in turning off the fan or moving my work.

That Sunday I was admitted to the hospital because the pain in my shoulder was pneumonia, which caused my lung to collapse. While doctors were working on that problem, I learned I had lung cancer.

You don’t hear a lot after someone says the words lung cancer while looking at you. While I have vivid memories about the events leading up to those words, the few days after hearing those words are a blur.

I am a ten-year survivor, in part because of luck – when the cancer was discovered there was still a surgical option available. I am a ten-year survivor in part because of my doctors, especially a highly skilled surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital. But most of all I am a ten-year survivor because of Janet. She was not about to let lung cancer take me away.

I often say it is much easier being a lung cancer victim than it is being a caregiver or family member. As a lung cancer victim, I always knew how I felt. My caregiver, my wife Janet, and my children, Shelley and Jarrod, could only ask me how I felt and then hope I would not gloss over how I was feeling at that moment.

Janet knew better. She knows that when I said everything was fine, everything wasn’t fine. After 30 years, she could read me like a book.

After my surgery, I went through chemotherapy. In the middle of that, I was ready to through in the towel. Janet would not let me quit. She pushed, and pushed and pushed until I completed chemo.

When I think about beating the odds, I often think about boxer Rocky Graziano. He beat the odds and became the middleweight champion. He called his autobiography Somebody Up There Like Me! That could be my story as well. Somebody up there sent Janet into my life. Somebody up there likes me!

By Janet Thompson

It’s been a little over ten years, and after 40 years of marriage, the words still ring in my ears, “Your husband has lung cancer.”

The long hard road began back in September 2003 when Rick was sick with pneumonia and then diagnosed with lung cancer. We were told it wasn’t operable. We decided to go to Mass General where we learned they could operate. After a couple of surgeries, his lung was removed in November and then the chemo began.

Being the caregiver for Rick, along with our best cheerleader, our daughter, as well as our son who had to provide support long distance as he was away at school, we all traveled the long road together with Rick. He got very sick from the chemo and wanted to quit. Our hearts were broken and I wished I could take away the pain from the surgery and the sick feeling he was going through.

He might have been the patient but sometimes I think it is harder on the caregiver, feeling helpless and not being able to provide the comfort or to take away the pain. I had to find a way to encourage him.

Fortunately Rick got on track and things improved.  I’m pleased to say that this past August we celebrated our 40th Anniversary in Montreal, where we had started out on our honeymoon.

Not knowing about the programs available to Rick or myself I was fortunate to have a nurse provided through the insurance company. She would check in with me a few times a week.  It was a great support system and I found it to be very encouraging.

Which brings me to Lung Cancer Alliance. The great support system they have is not just for the patient, but for the caregivers and family members as well.  It is a great feeling to be able to pick up the phone and talk with someone.

I am so very proud of Rick and all that he has been through over the last ten years and so very proud that he is a very strong advocate for people with lung cancer.  Rick spearheads the lung cancer vigils here in Nashua, N.H.  He is a telephone buddy providing support to those with lung cancer.  He provides the opportunity for people to relate to someone who has already gone through what they are facing. He provides encouragement knowing that you can survive and the road is not as hard and lonely when someone on the other end of the phone is living proof you can survive and you can do it.

Valentine’s Day is here and I am so pleased to say that I will be celebrating it with my soul mate, best friend and lung cancer survivor of ten years.

An Important Step Towards Coverage for Lung Cancer Screening

We need your help! The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is moving its review process forward for lung cancer screening coverage. Currently the median age for diagnosis is 67 so you can see why this is important to the federal agency that provides health care services to seniors and those disabled.

We believe in the life saving benefit of lung cancer screening and we know you do too. Please consider telling CMS what lung cancer screening means to you and why you think they should cover this for those who need it most. Click here to tell CMS why all those at high risk for lung cancer deserve this life saving benefit!

There will be a number of steps in this process that we will be following and commenting on. But your input is just as important!

Private insurers have already begun to cover lung cancer screening and will continue to do so, but the government agencies follow a separate track.

When lung cancer screening is fully and responsibly implemented we will be able to save tens of thousands of lives a year. We must call on CMS to work with us and move this process forward as quickly as possible.

One final note, for those who have been diagnosed with lung cancer and have never smoked or don’t fit the ‘high risk’ description, this opportunity benefits the entire lung cancer community, as screening is a tool to help accelerate research into other detection, diagnosis and treatment discoveries.

Take action now! Share your thoughts and experiences with CMS.

The public comment period will be open until March 12, 2014. Please do not include personal health information in your comments, as they will be disregarded. 

2014 World Cancer Day!

By Lung Cancer Alliance and the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC)

Today is World Cancer Day, a chance to raise awareness, encourage discussion, highlight misconceptions about the disease and most importantly, celebrate our survivors. Through the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC), we are working in tandem with 27 other lung cancer organizations from around the world to improve outcomes for all lung cancer patients, worldwide.

On this World Cancer Day, we commit to the global lung cancer community to bring attention to continue our work in the following areas:

Placing lung cancer on the global healthcare agenda

Screening is here in the US! There are screening centers of excellence for those at high risk and insurance is beginning to cover this life saving benefit for those who need it most.  This also has the potential to accelerate research on earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Changing public perceptions and lessen the stigma of lung cancer

No one deserves to die from lung cancer. This message is coming through more since our No One Deserves to Die campaign launched. Our amazing volunteers have also helped us create the largest coordinated awareness event for lung cancer in the world!

Empowering lung cancer patients to take an active role in their care

Knowledge is power. If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed or is battling lung cancer, please call our HelpLine at 1-800-298-2436 and we can help.

Effecting change in legislative or regulatory policies to optimize treatment and care

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, historic lung cancer legislation, passed a year ago.  $78M secured through a lung cancer research pipeline within the Department of Defense.  Now, with your help, we are working to secure access and coverage for screening and treatments!

Lung Cancer Alliance and all of the organizations within GLCC want you to know that on World Cancer Day and throughout the year, we are committed to celebrating you and working for change that will ultimately save the lives of hundreds of thousands around the world.


The Grammy Awards Are Sunday…Check Out LCA Staff Favorite Songs!

Music is a great way to let loose, have fun, decompress or just relax. Here at LCA, we love listening to music and often have it on in the office to give us motivation, inspiration and generate creativity.

With the 56th Annual Grammy Awards approaching on Sunday, January 26, 2014 we asked the LCA staff and volunteers what their favorite songs are.





Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President & CEO: “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett





Sheila Ross, Special Counsel: “O Mio Babbino Caro” by Gianni Schicchi





Emily Eyres, Chief Operating Officer: “Sugar Magnolia” by Grateful Dead





Amy Copeland, Director of Medical Outreach: “Such Great Heights” by Postal Service





Edy Whidden, Chief Administrative Officer: “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera





Tina Hone, Senior Advisor, Policy and Partnerships: “Downtown” by Petula Clark





Maureen Rigney, Director of Community and Support Services: “World Leader Pretend” by REM






Tara Perloff, Support Services Manager: “Save Room” by John Legend, “Wonderland” by John Mayer and “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5






Kay Cofrancesco, Director of Marketing: “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow





Gabby Geier, Communications Manager: “Brave” by Sara Bareilles





Zakiyah Williams, Manager of Events and Volunteers: “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z





Lanni Boyd, Senior Manager of Events and Volunteers: “Jamming” by Bob Marley





Josh Hunter, Development and Advocacy Coordinator: “Travelers Insurance” by Their/They’re/There





Kristen McAvoy, Administrative Assistant: I really like Jazz artists (old and new), such as Michael Buble, Harry Connick, Jr., Frank Sinatra, etc. A somewhat new artist, Melody Gardot, is one that I like, as well. She was in a terrible car accident at the age of 19 and jazz was therapeutic for her during her recovery process. Her music inspired me!





Jenny White, TN Chapter Director: Two of my favorite songs are Christine Aguilera’s “Fighter” and “Beautiful!”





Carla Poe, GA Chapter Community Representative: “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars because it reminds me of the music I grew up listening to – that Motown flair….





Ken Wheatley, CA Chapter Co-Director: “You’ll Always Be My Heart And Soul” by Stephen Bishop


Don’t miss two-time Grammy winner, country music star and lung cancer survivor, Merle Haggard, performing alongside Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Blake Shelton at the Grammy’s on Sunday. We can’t wait for the epic performance!

Which song or artist do you turn to for motivation and inspiration?

Lung Cancer Alliance for a Happy + Healthy 2014

2013 was a fantastic year for all of us at Lung Cancer Alliance. Now that 2014 is just around the corner, the LCA team has come up with New Year’s resolutions to stay happy and healthy.

Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President & CEO: Step up my exercise routine as though I was training for the Olympic Pentathlon. I have been dying to learn how to fence!

Amy Copeland, Associate Director of Medical Outreach: My resolution is to try something new every week. It might be as simple as trying a new recipe, taking a class or going to a museum I have not been to before. I’ll be going hot air ballooning on the 29th so I think that will count for the first week!

Edy Whidden, Chief Administrative Officer: Get rid of all things I have not used in the past year at home.

Maureen Rigney, Director of Community and Support Services: I am going to take at least one fitness class and am going to try to learn a new skill each month.

Emily Eyres, Chief Operating Officer: Thinking about getting my butt kicked again by the Marine Corps Marathon but, ugh… It hurts just saying that!

Josh Hunter, Development and Advocacy Coordinator: Read at least two books per month.

Gabby Geier, Communications Manager
: See a new country this year!

Kristen McAvoy, Administrative Assistant: To write more. I have always loved writing, so I want to start doing it regularly by creating a blog. So I guess my New Year’s resolution is to write an entry every week.

Lanni Boyd, Senior Manager of Events and Volunteers: Learning to rock climb

Comment below with your 2014 resolutions, and check out our Facebook page for more tips to stay happy and healthy in the new year.

Message On Lung Cancer Screening

As many of you have most likely seen, lung cancer screening has been in the news many times in the past year. We hope to see a final recommendation from the federal government approving CT screening for those at high risk before the end of this year!

As this important decision draws near, you will likely see an even more heightened focus as well as differing opinions in the press about how CT screening can benefit you.  It may be confusing – but this is what is important to remember.  Above all, lung cancer screening is a life-saver. Period.

Yes, any screening method or drug treatment for any disease comes with varying levels of risk.  But the good news for lung cancer is that today we have a greater understanding of how best to manage any suspicious nodule than we did years ago. We also have more advanced imaging tools to assist us in the earlier detection of lung cancer than those used in earlier outdated studies.  And unfortunately many press reports are using this outdated information.

Over the past two years, through our National Framework, we have been working with screening centers of excellence  to ensure responsible and quality screening and care is available to those who need it most. We will continue to make sure you receive only the most current, updated and responsible information.  We will continue to work with committed leaders in the field to develop tools and materials to guide your understanding and help with conversations you may have with your doctor, family and the people you love.

We urge you to continue to seek information about your lung cancer risk and whether you could benefit from screening. This truly is a win-win for those at risk, researchers seeking cures and all who are impacted by lung cancer.

We promise you that we will never take our focus off the goal of savings lives and advancing research to help anyone impacted by this disease.

A Wife’s Legacy Lives On

“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.

Scott Reid
New Jersey

Newly Published Research Further Supports the Cost-Effectiveness of CT Screening for Those At Risk for Lung Cancer

A message from LCA President & CEO, Laurie Fenton Ambrose

August has been a groundbreaking month for the lung cancer community! First, we received the long awaited news from the Government Task Force responsible for providing national screening recommendations that low dose CT screening for those at risk for lung cancer would be recommended. Screening with CT scans is the only proven method that has been confirmed as a way to reduce lung cancer deaths through early detection

Now, we have a new study, released this week, adding to this recommendation that low dose CT screening is highly cost-effective for those at risk (ages 50 – 64). The study also shows that offering smoking cessation interventions with an annual screening program will further improve the overall cost-effectiveness of lung cancer screenings.

This study, A Cost-Utility Analysis of Lung Cancer Screening and the Additional Benefits of Incorporating Smoking Cessation Interventions, is the third in a series of peer-review articles evaluating the benefits of early detection of lung cancer. The studies were performed by Milliman, Inc., a leading international actuarial firm, as well as researchers at Legacy’s Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies with input and support from Lung Cancer Alliance.

All three studies show strong evidence that early detection will significantly reduce lung cancer deaths – upwards of 70,000 a year and that low dose CT scans are more cost-effective than commonly used screening methods for other cancers.

We are so proud to have partnered with Legacy and Milliman on these studies which further bolster our long advocated call for backing of CT screening for those at risk for lung cancer. We will continue our efforts to ensure that this life – saving benefit is now deployed responsibly in our health care system.

Creating a Community: Host, Attend, Support a Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil

Guest Blog by Jenny White


This year will be my third year hosting a Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil in Nashville and each year, it just gets better and better.

Our first year, we hosted the vigil at St. Thomas Hospital and had a great turnout.  Last year, we held it at the club level of the Titans Stadium which faces downtown Nashville and the support we received was unforgettable. LCA helped with finding a great venue, gave us a toolkit with glow sticks, handouts and bracelets, and they offered advice and suggestions when we needed help!

We invited a radiologist to share information on lung screening guidelines and we featured a patient who participated in a screening trial and was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. She had heard about the trial on the local public radio station, realized she fit the criteria and acted on the information.

We asked the daughter, who lost her father, to share her story and why she has added her voice to the historic momentum surrounding lung cancer.  And we honored all those impacted by lung cancer with a moment of silence while we shared a remembrance video.

Jenny White (center) with vigil attendees at the Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil in Nashville, TN 2012.

Why do I continue to host a Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil?  Because of the people who are willing to share their own experiences, empower us to raise awareness and make a difference and for the patient who had her cancer found in stage 1 through early detection in the hope we can exponentially add to the number of lung cancer patients diagnosed early.

After my own diagnosis of lung cancer, I looked for something in Nashville to join in order to fight this terrible disease. I couldn’t find anything! I wanted to offer my community an opportunity to come to an event that honored individuals whose lives have been impacted by lung cancer, whether they were currently in treatment, out of treatment, loved ones or health care providers. After researching national lung cancer organizations, I found my match in Lung Cancer Alliance. Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil is my vehicle to make a difference for those who fight against lung cancer.

For anyone interested in hosting, supporting or attending I encourage you to visit and help us continue to empower our community.

Jenny White is an active member of the Nashville lung cancer community and the Director of our Tennessee Chapter.

Saving Lives With Screening


On average over  435 people die a day of lung cancer.  Over 200 won’t – if we implement CT screening right – right now.  And the good news is that pieces are falling into place to start saving lives today!

First, science has now proven beyond a doubt that low dose CT screening for those at high risk for lung cancer will increase survival rates. In November 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial, the largest cancer screening trial ever conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), showed that screening those at high risk with a low dose CT scan improves survival by 20%. Other studies and modeling analyses have also shown that the improvement could be as high as 64%!

Second, there are a defined set of risk factors for people to know if they are at risk for lung cancer. An extensive smoking history, an advanced age, a family history and certain exposures to Agent Orange or other known carcinogens, among others, can put you at elevated risk for the disease.

Third, major medical associations have put together clinical guidelines to aid medical professionals in their efforts to set up responsible screening programs across the country.

Fourth, in addition to the clinical guidelines, Lung Cancer Alliance developed a set of principles to link and guide best practices uniformly among community-based and academic medical centers.  These principles are laid out in the  National Framework of Excellence for Lung Cancer Screening and Continuum of Care, and to date have over 75 medical centers following these best practices.

Fifth, some insurance companies have begun to cover lung cancer screening for those at risk in their health care plans.   

But the most important missing piece right now is government action.  The governing body that ranks all screening methods, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, (USPSTF), has been evaluating the available data but has yet to come out with its recommendation.  This delay is inexplicable.  We are urging an expedited review and calling for its highest level of recommendation.

We are working here in DC to ensure the life saving benefit of low dose CT screening is available to those who need it most.

While we continue this life-saving work – please be mindful of your health and the health of your loved ones. Learn about your risk for lung cancer. If you feel you could be at high risk, call your doctor or contact a screening center of excellence for help. The next life saved, could be your own.