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Lung Cancer and no sympathy


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When people ask what type of cancer I have and I answer lung cancer, they all get the same look on their face, and I always follow it up with "I have never smoked". It's almost amusing to hear what they say next, some just respond with "wow, really?" But then there are those that try to figure out how I got it, "Where do you live?", "Are you near a chemical plant?" "Does your husband smoke?" My answer of "no" to all their questions almost always brings the "pity" look to their faces.

It doesn't bother me anymore, although it did in the beginning. I've even had nurses, while filling out forms for this procedure or that actually check the "smoker" question without asking. It's like "are you a smoker and they are checking it without even looking at me to hear my response" So even those in the medical community think that if you have lung cancer, you smoked.

Something interesting......

Today on the Martha Stewart Show, the actress Linda Dano was on. She used to be on a soap opera, then she had a talk show, some of you may know her.

She said that this year she lost both her husband and 9 days later her mother died. Her husband died of lung cancer after only 3 months. (She didn't comment on what her mom died of)

She then went on to talk about all the work she is doing for the breast cancer foundation!!!!!!

It made me soooo mad. We don't have anyone willing to go public and make it their cause.

We still have such a long way to go.....


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The actress S. Epatha Merkerson (the police Lt. from Law & Order)had close friends who died of lung cancer, and used to be fairly active in helping raise money for research. I haven't heard anything out of her about this lately, however.

I think the bottom line is that breast cancer is the more PC disease,doesn't have the stigma associated with it, and is very, very organized, so they can raise big bucks and companies feel like they are doing something when they offer support. And they are. It's important to battle breast cancer, cervical cancer, and all types of cancer, until we eradicate cancer entirely.

But ...

Like others pointed out, it's difficult organizing people who a) might be ashamed to discuss it publicly, B) fear a backlash against smoking rather than help with the disease they have, c) believe we "asked for it" by our bad habits, or d) insert the reason(s) of your choice.

It's maddening, for sure. Especially when so many in the medical profession are as clueless as a lot of lay people.


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All the notes and opinions are fascinating. I don't think I have ever had some one ask me if I smoked. Neither have they ever said "oh you smoked." I have never smoked but do have lung cancer. My mother-in-law smokes and says she will smoke until the day she dies. She knows what possible consequences are and has acknowledged that lung cancer or emphysema may be something she deals someday. No one is saying anyone deserves cancer but to me they are saying that cancer can be a consequence of smoking just as heart disease can be a consequence of smoking. And the percentages are out there of who is most likely to get lung cancer. Statistics also show that overweight people have the consequence of being more likely to have diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, etc. No one is saying they deserve those diseases but the probability goes up when you make the choice of being overweight. That is often a natural consequence. Not everyone who is overweight has health problems just as not everyone who smokes has lung cancer. I think we should be careful to differentiate between consquences of certain behaviors as apposed to someone deserving something. Don't think any of us would say "so and so deserves to have cancer". We all make good and bad choices everyday. None of us have ever made all good choices. Only Jesus was perfect. Unfortunately some of the consequences of bad choices are more severe. really appreciate all of you. To me this is great, that we can express our opinions and still respect and care about each other. pammie

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Fortunataely I CAN walk around the neighborhood with DH and Teddy (the dog)!! Probably like most neighborhoods there is that ONE who latches on, you know? He knows EVERYBODY, their kids, their pets, their jobs, you name it. Anyhow, he hadn't seen me since summer of 2004 when I was put out of commission with a severe hernidated disc. He figured he hadn't seen me since then because of it. I told him the reason he hadn't seen me was that I had had cancer. He continued on with that conversation and I realized he ASSUMED I had had breast cancer. I told him NO...I had lung cancer. He said, "Oh, I didn't know you smoked." WELL, did he get more than one earful about that. I spouted stats, etc., lots of what I could remember from reading on here. He sheepishly commented that he didn't know any of that. I told him I could educate him more if he wanted.

You know what??? Next time he saw us walking, we didn't have to worry about him latching on :lol: . I am not that forceful of a person. Thank you guys for helping me become more of an advocate!


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When people start pointing out the potential "natural consequences" to those who are overweight, underweight, drink alcohol, drive diesels, sky dive, go deep sea diving and sailing, work on farms, work as carpenters, surf, pilot small planes, walk across busy streets even if they use the crosswalk, rock climb, ski, ride horses, and the list goes on then it will be might be okay for some stranger who has no real knowledge of me to make a comment like the ones I've heard when people find out I have Lung Cancer. Rude as heck, but okay.

Just curious: Anyone of us who have Lung Cancer ever felt the need to have some complete stranger point out to us the link between tobacco and Lung Cancer and the potential consequences of smoking? I cannot imagine any rational human being thinking that this is somehow acceptable behavior.

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It absolutely drives me nuts too. I have found the

only people who don't ask the smoking question are the people who smoke. And probably because they don't want to know. And they are the ones who probably should ask the question!!!! My response usually is " Does it matter"?? It usually puts them in there place.

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I don't like it either. It seems so shallow for someone to ask that and quite embarassing to me. After all, it was not something I was proud of. Afterall, it wasn't a crime and I was predisposed to it very early from commercials, family, boyfriends. Heck, almost everyone that was important in my life smoked. My onc at M.D. Anderson said smoking did not cause my cancer. She said it was bad luck. Bad Luck is right. Nobody knows what causes it for sure. They just have ideas. There are so many things we are in contact with our whole life that causes cancer in some form or another. Hello----it could be genetic. Give me a break. People that are ignorant, you can help them understand. But people that are stupid only help themselves.



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  • 1 month later...

I guess I am slow on the uptake but after 3 month of dealing with the Dad's Lung Cancer it is starting to bother that the first question everyone asks is whether he smoked or not.

He did. For a long time.

He quit in 1985.

He also worked for Exxon. He was exposed to so many harmful chemicals: asbestos, hydrocarbons, benzene, H2S.

Each by themselves could have caused his cancer.

SO What????

He is my Dad.

He is sick.

Cancer is not retribution for an unpopular habit.

People need to get over that stupidity.

I never smoked but I also worked for Exxon.

There are hazards workers are exposed to everyday. Poeple need to remember that when they use a plastic sack or pump gasoline into their SUV. Somewhre a worker may get cancer making the product they are using.

That is the end of my rant.

Over and out!


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Please guys, give breast cancer a break. Because of the breast cancer, my lung cancer was found very early. And it does hurt my reconstructed breasts just a bit. :cry:

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 93, I did not feel it was a "politically correct" disease. I felt fear and shame (but not sure why), and didn't have very many places to go with it.

The Susan Komen Foundation was instituted after Susan lost her fight at the age of 36 or 37. Her sister vowed to fight in susan's name.

Through the foundation, women became aware and took charge of their own health. Both of my breast cancers were found on self-exam. I am proud to be proof that you can survive.

As far as lung cancer, I believe there are many former smokers out there who quit way long time ago, like I did. When they hear of a lung cancer dx, I believe it is out of their own fear that they ask. We want to believe that only smokers get this disease.

It is our job to educate the public. When people ask me, I am very clear to say that I had smoked for 10 years and been a non-smoker for 17. Then I recite all the non-smokers I know of who have gotten lung cancer.

It is ignorance that causes the question.

We must educate.


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Gail, you make an excellent point. Education will help. And you know, before lung cancer became a personal part of my life and I was forced to get educated about it, I'm sure I had the same thoughts and probably even asked the same question that irritates all of us now!

Luckily, the people asking it haven't had to deal with it, and that is a good thing. The question gives us a good opportunity to enlighten.


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On the breast cancer note - I really do share my story with anyone who asks, but I don't know if I would were it breast cancer. I guess it all goes back to realizing that some parts are meant to be covered with a bathing suit and not "shared". By describing surgeries, showing scars, etc., with my lung cancer, I'm only describing my innards, not my 'privates'. It's odd, but I don't think I'd be as open were it a disease of my 'parts' and not something EVERYONE has that doesn't make people giggle when it's mentioned....

...and for all the good work done with breast cancer research and the better odds, I still have a friend losing the battle to breast cancer. LIFE is a crap shoot, it's not just "life with cancer" that's a numbers game.

Thank you, Gail, for speaking up.

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This is one topic that I think anyone with LC goes crazy over. I know I do. Yes, I was a smoker. But, people tend to forget that smoking is LEGAL, and extremely ADDICTING. We get treated like we were doing crack or heroin!! I say Outlaw Smoking so our children won't have the chance to become addicted and die. I remember as a youngster (11 or 12) watching the corner candystore owner selling single cigarettes to other children. What a guy!!

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I also get asked if I smoked. I never have a good answer. I do tend to like the "only when I'm on fire" reply !!

It is kind of funny when I was being treated for cervical cancer, I was told that too was caused from smoking. Of course I had quit smoking 3 months before the cervical cancer was dc'd. I NEVER had anyone ask me if smoking caused my cervical cancer. I had people ask if I had LC during that time. Everyone was sure ( because I smoked ) the only kind of cancer that would DARE come near me was LC.

I was also SURE that I could ward off the BEAST, because it had been so long since I did smoke. Boy did I get a surprise !!!

Yes I did smoke, but I also have a strong family history of lung problems and cancers. I really don't think it made any difference for me, one way or another.


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