Are you or a loved one a lung cancer survivor? Have you lost someone to lung cancer? Do you feel stigmatized, shunned, invisible, powerless? Do you feel like you can’t possibly make a difference? I did.
When I started this lung cancer journey, I had been pretty cynical regarding my ability to affect any kind of real difference. You see, in December 2009 I became a Nobody. I became an Invisible. I was in the local emergency room for pneumonia when a nurse entered the room and informed me that my x-ray showed a very large mass and several smaller ones which was “almost certainly advanced lung cancer” and that “it does not look good.”
She immediately followed by asking if I had ever been a smoker, then coldly responded “Well then, you took a calculated risk and lost, didn’t you?” and walked away. The emotionally devastating effect of those words was profound. I was to blame for my cancer, having brought it upon myself. I was unworthy of sympathy or compassion. I felt judged, shunned, ashamed, terrified and alone.
I would soon discover that I, and those like me, were also regarded as being unworthy by our own government, as stigma associated with lung cancer translates into a massive inequality in research funding Our government representatives appear quick to align themselves with funding for breast cancer research, which carries with it high public approval ratings. With lung cancer – not so much.
Isn’t it time we refuse to be treated as invisible nobodies who can be easily ignored. Isn’t it time we demanded to be noticed, acknowledged, respected? Isn’t it time we shouted from the rooftops that 1 in 14 of us will be diagnosed with lung cancer, that it is the leading cause of cancer death and 2nd leading cause of death from ‘all’ causes, that ‘anyone’ can get lung cancer regardless of their smoking habits!
To lift the crushing weight of stigma, obtain much needed research funds, and see lung cancer survivors treated with the same degree of compassion and dignity afforded sufferers of other cancers, we need to become visible and to be heard!
I saw a quote from Maya Angelou: “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” That quote really hit home for me. I realize now that, even in these times, each one of us truly can make a difference, and ‘together’ we can make change. It reminds me of Buddhas’ observance that thousands of candles can be lighted from the flame of a single candle.
Lung Cancer Alliance’s Lung Cancer Summit provides us with a vehicle to do just that – give people who felt they had no voice, no political power, and overlooked by society, a powerful vehicle to come together, be heard and play a part in effecting real change within our legislature.
When I received an email from Lung Cancer Alliance inviting me to attend their summit, I went to their website to read up. I feel energized and empowered by this wonderful opportunity to make a difference, and am grateful and honored to be given the opportunity to participate in meeting with Congress for much needed increased funding for lung cancer research.
It is not only a powerful vehicle to accomplish much needed change, but returns a sense of dignity, value and power to lung cancer survivors like me.
I hope you will join me and add your voice!
Chris Newman, Somebody
Registration for the Summit is open until August 15th! Spots are limited so sign up today!
You can sponsor Chris and other survivors and help them attend the Summit. Every little bit helps us bring more lung cancer survivors and their loved ones to DC for the experience of a lifetime. Consider a donation today!