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I'm new to the dealing with cancer questions, so not sure if you my reaction to question is "normal".

I was just leaving a business meeting and a gentlemen said he was sorry to hear my dad was just dx with cancer. I thanked him and he asked what type, so I tell him. First thing his partner said "Is he a smoker?".

I wanted to choke him! Opted for saying yes and walking away. Is this feeling normal? If so, does it fade with time?

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Nope it doesn't fad. We have had NUMEROUS conversation here at LCSC about this very same thing. Just had one not to long ago on the board somewhere???

When they ask, you might want to say something like,

"Why do you ask that?" Put it back in there lap.

PEOPLE ARE NOT EDUCATED when it comes to lung cancer. MOST people believe it's a SMOKERS DISEASE and that's IT! :roll:

Your in for a bumpy ride. Not to mention when people say things like that, they tend to be saying "SHAME SHAME SHAME!" :x Lung cancer is the ONLY cancer with a stigma attached to it or a BLAME issue attached to it. It's hard to live it down. We keep working at it though!

Good luck! Stay strong!

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Yes, there was a thread not too long ago on this very subject. I had posted that I used to ask that question myself. I am embarassed to say that. But for me it was more of my hypochondriac tendancies kicking in. I wanted reassurance that I was safe from getting lung cancer. I learned the hard way that smoking is certainly not the only cause of lung cancer. My mom, who was a never smoker, had lung cancer. After my mom was diagnosed I started to do a lot of research and realized just how in the dark people are about lung cancer. I recently had an article about this very subject printed in 3 of our local newspapers. I wanted people to know that smoking was not the only cause. Even if it was the only cause, it doesn't make it hurt any less when your spouse, parent, or loved one is diagnosed.

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Has been posted here many times. I, like wondermom, used to be an offender in this area as well. i'm not proud of it. Connie is right, it's a lack of education in this area, or in my opinion, often misinformation, as I feel we are often told that smoking causes LC.

I will say that I never meant it to be judgemental, and hopefully your business friend didn't either. All that being said, It's irrelevant what someone has done or hasn't done, no one deserves this disease. I don't care if you ate absestos for breakfast everyday of your life, you don't deserve it. I try my best to inform the uninformed on this subject everyday.

As far as it getting easier, I hope it will for you, because I doubt the question will stop popping up. Review the old post, as there are many great comments on how to handle it.

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I am sorry to hear about your Dad's diagnosis and yes, this is quite the normal question.

In a prior thread, a few months ago, there were some awesome suggestions for how to respond.

Someone posted that you simply respond when asked, "Why do you ask?" I LOVED that one and had the occasion, in the wee hours of the morning of the day my husband died to use it for the first time. I was checking him into the ER via ambulance and the girl at the desk asked "the question" and I answered with the above. Talk about a jaw dropping on the floor! I laughed and told her that I was trying that line out for the first time on her and rather liked the way it went.

So, as you can see from my hub's profile, even after 2 1/2 years -- right up to the very end, that damn question was being asked.

Sorry for you to go through all of this too. Just another little perk of lung cancer.

Welthy -- who just now noticed that Connie answered the same way! Gosh, you can't take me anywhere! :roll:

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I wasn't so shocked that someone asked me, I just never dreamed it would tick me off so d@mned much.

It seemed like he was saying it was Dad's fault he got cancer, like an accusation. I don't think he meant it that way or hope he didn't, but that's the way I took it. Wasn't sure if it was normal to feel that way or just my irish temper.


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Sorry about your dad's diagnosis. I hate that smoking question. :evil: I was a heavy smoker for 40 years and, yes, I did get lung cancer. Anyway, I like Connie's suggestion that you toss the question back to the other person. And, if they say something such as, Well, so many people with lung cancer smoked or anything along those lines, try educating them. "Yes, many people with lung cancer were smokers. Most smokers don't get lung cancer, however. Also, some non-smokers get lung cancer, too. And, likewise, most non-smokers don't get lc." If nothing else, that will take up enough of their time and bore them enough that they'll move on to another topic or just move away from you. If not, you can always walk away from them. :lol::lol::lol:


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Hi AndyT,

I find your reaction completely normal - as I'm sure you can tell from the above posts. I feel the same way (I can feel my face turn red and my heart rate go up when people ask - it's a full body experience!) I've never had the guts to say 'Why do you ask' but I LOVE it. And it may open the door to educate some folks.

In fact, just last week I was shocked when 'the question' was asked of my mom at chemo last week, by another LC fighter. :shock: (She had not been a smoker.)

I'd read 'Help Me Live - 20 things people with cancer want you to know' (highly recommend it) and she makes the great point that if you meet someone with LC and they didn't smoke, you will probably hear about it without asking. So just don't ask!!

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Nobody deserves lung cancer for any reason. People make a lot of mistakes in a life time, but NOONE deserve a disease because of it.

The Public's way of thinking is, You got what you asked for! :roll::twisted:

What's sad is many many people quit smoking to try and better there lives (and good for them) and yet, they don't get an ataboy card for doing that if they are dx.d with lung cancer. It's a no win situation.

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Here Andy, share this with people!

Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer

Published Friday, October 19, 2007

Although smoking leads the list of contributors to lung cancer, second place belongs to a natural element ahead of second-hand smoke.

Radon, an odorless, tasteless, invisible and naturally occurring gas, has become the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The radioactive gas gets into the air and, when taken into the lungs, causes disease, the EPA said.

The EPA estimated about 21,000 lung cancer deaths were caused by radon in a 2003 assessment of risks. The U.S. surgeon general lists radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer - behind smoking - in the country today.

The number represented more deaths than those caused by drunken driving, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

Radon is found all over the country. It enters the home through the indoor air, water supply and soil. Radon entering through the soil is usually a much larger risk than through water, said the EPA.

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. Most soils contain varying amounts of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases, well water may also be a source of radon

We wanted to know more so engaged in an e-mail conversation with Ian Williams, a geophysicist and geology professor at UW-River Falls.

Professor Williams claimed not to be an expert on radon, but as a rock scientist we were sure he knew a heck of a lot more than the average Joe about the subject.

"Radon gas is colorless, tasteless, odorless and actually inert, but very soluble and radioactive. It emits alpha particles, which is what causes the cell damage that leads to cancer," he replied. Lung cancer often has a 10-25-year gestation period.

Professor Williams said that we absorb radon from groundwater, construction materials and directly via our basements if we live on rocks that contain significant amounts of uranium, particularly basement rocks (i.e. metamorphic and igneous rocks).

"In the Twin Cities area we live directly on platform sedimentary rocks such as dolostones, sandstones and thin shales - it's the shales that may contain minerals that could contribute to radon," he said.

The professor said Taylors Falls to the north sits on a bed of basalt which probably contributes more radon. Living on granite such as in North Central Wisconsin, is probably even a worse scenario for radon.

The EPA estimates 8 million homes in the country may have hazardous radon levels. And the element could contribute to about one-seventh of the total lung cancer deaths each year. The American Cancer Society estimated the number of deaths from smoking at 160,000 a year in 2004. The EPA urges that all homes be tested for radon regardless of geographic location.

For more information on radon risks and testing, consult www.epa.gov/radon.

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Sometimes the question is asked in a non-judgmental way, though perhaps awkwardly, and more out of curiosity than from "he did it to himself" hostility. You can usually tell which is which, but not always. A response something like this might cover both possibilities:

"You know, I used to have the same question myself. But now that I know something about lung cancer, I realize..." etc. etc.

Of course if all else fails, a silent stare can do wonders!



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I just did a 2 page report for my nursing class on the subject of lung cancer. I came here and asked for help, and ended up getting a 103.5 % as a test score, because I had EXTRA information.(Thanks everyone).

If you want to throw statistics at people who ask that stupid question, (it makes my ears burn too, when I'm asked that about my husband), you can tell them that 15,000-25,000 people per year, get Dx'd with lung cancer, who have NEVER smoked, or even been around second hand smoke or chemicals.

It's not safe for people to think they're not going to get it because they've never smoked. That's why we need to educate them.

Even though they have "foot in mouth" disease, we wouldn't wish lung cancer on anyone, so I think it's our duty to inform them, especially if they ask that question.

I'll be keeping your dad and your family in my prayers.


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Thank you all for the advice and lung cancer info. Dad smoked for almost 50 years and trying his best to quit now, but NO ONE deserves this evil desease. I never realized how horrible LC was until my crash course over the last several weeks. I'll look for the old posts as it appears for your responses that it's not the last time I'll get that question.

It's been a very rough year for the Thomas Clan and Dad's dx just topped it off. I'm sure I'm overly emotional from this past year and the LC thing is so new yet. Hopefully, in time, I'll get more tactful at handling these things. Lord knows I've not always said the right things, so I need to get better with others.

Best of luck to each & every one of you and your families!!

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Hi Andy - yes that question aggravates me too and so the next time someone asks me that I too will say "why do you ask" - it really doesn't matter at this point what may or may not have caused the cancer - the biggest problem now is that your father and mine too has it. I see in your signature that you are now dealing with blood clot problems - so are we - my dad is in the hospital with one in his leg that has been giving him fits and so they are seeing if they can get it out or dissolve it somehow - I don't know how they would do that.

Take care and God bless.

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Hi Amy! Funny to hear from you today....I was going to send you an e-mail this morning to see how you & your Dad were doing, but I got sidetracked. That seems the norm lately.

Sorry to hear your Dad is in the hospital. I'm not sure how exactly they would get rid of it either. My Dad's clots were very small, so they weren't too worrisome after he got some IV Lovenox. He was still sore, but mostly out of immediate danger. The hospital let him come home on Tuesday.

If I come across anything about other methods, I'll drop them to you in an e-mail. Wishing and praying for the best for you & your dad.

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Hi, I am so sorry to hear about your dad but am happy that you can come here to ask questions and vent. I am a little late into this thread, but as I have posted in the past, I have been asked the same question about my mom. Never once did I feel it was being asked maliciously. I usually respond that she did smoke for about 40 years, quit 7 years befoire being diagnosed and still was diagnosed with cancer. After that, I use the opening to let people know that at least 15% of lung cancer is diagnosed in never smokers. There are so many horrible diseases out there. I really believe that MOST people are trying to assure themselves that since they don't smoke, lung cancer is one disease they don't have to worry about. They are NOT trying to blame my mom for her diagnosis, they are just hoping that they won't get it. Unfortunately, after I fill them in, they realize that they are not safe from the diagnosis at all. I realize that this response is a bit different from many above. Because I feel that no one has ever asked me this question maliciously, I could never turn it back on them with "why do you ask" I'd rather explain it the way I stated above. My mother has asked me to use her diagnosis to educate others about lung cancer. She will be the first to tell people that HER cancer was caused by smoking. Since being diagnosed, 2 of my aunts and several cousins have all quit smoking. When my mom is trying to make some sense of this disease, she thinks about that. I wish your dad the very best with his treatment. This is a terrible disease that no one deserves to get. Shelley

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Oh yeah...the dreaded question. :x One of my Aunts (not blood related) told me the day of my Mom's memorial service that she did it to herself! I was so mad and tore into her just a little. She is a breast cancer survivor and she then admitted that she may have done that to herself since she took HRT for years. Now I'm mad at myself for giving her one of Mom's t-shirts when she wanted to change out of her dress clothes.

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when discussing my young husband's passing from lung cancer i am often asked this very question....it used to make me sick inside....wondering why people assumed he had smoked.....my husband never smoked a day in his life and yet had a disease that somehow grouped him into a category of "it must be your fault you are sick"....

well last week marked the 3 year anniversary of his passing and i still feel as though it were yesterday....people still ask the same dumb questions....but now i answer differently.....

somehow along the way you are given the strength to turn misinformation and ignorance around...little by little..... one person at a time....

i have begun to teach others that no disease, not simply lung cancer, should be blamed on the person inflicted....instead we should all take advantage of these questions and use the opportunities towards bridging understanding of the making of this disease and towards finding a cure.....

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