Sunday, November 01, 2009
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month
This is my brother Clint. Clint died two years ago after a shockingly short battle with lung cancer.
November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney, and melanoma cancers combined, yet it receives a fraction of the research funding. October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons were ubiquitous, from the corrugated insulator on my coffee cup at Caribou to specially marked packages of M&Ms, with proceeds going to fund research and outreach. Public awareness, screening programs and research funding have helped contribute to huge strides in treatment and survival of breast cancer, and that is fantastic. Now it’s time to focus more attention and money on lung cancer, a disease that affects so many people, either themselves or someone they love.
Like my brother. Clint was diagnosed in August 2007 and died that December. Although I shouldn’t have been shocked, I was. Only a week before he died, his doctors told my sister-in-law, Lee, they expected him to recover.
He was not a smoker, not that it should matter. But some people seem to think that people with lung cancer deserve it because they smoked. That attitude surely contributes to a lack of funding for lung cancer research. According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, total research funding for lung cancer in the U.S. in 2009 is projected to be $199 million, down one-third since 2005. Compare this figure to breast cancer research funding: a projected $1.1 billion for 2009, up $50 million from 2005.
Perhaps the lack of funding also stems from projected outcomes. Lung cancer is considered a death sentence, with 5-year survival rates just under 16 percent, compared to 89 percent and almost 100 percent 5-year survival rates for breast and prostate cancers respectively. Doctors don’t want to board a sinking ship, and the government doesn’t want to buy a boat with a hole in the hull.
Clint and Lee had four kids. He will never see his children get married, never know his grandchildren, never gaze lovingly at his wife again. He will never tease me again, never show me how to be a patient, loving parent again. My mother had to bury her first-born child.
I miss my brother. I think about him every day. His photo is on my hutch. His Coca Cola glass is on my dresser. His love is in my heart.
Lung cancer needs to be talked about, and it needs to be eradicated. Check out these sites for more information or to get involved.
Lung Cancer Alliance
National Cancer Institute
Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation