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A Letter I Wrote.


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I'm not usually the big activist type prefering the "live and let live" attitude toward life. BUT .... the regular 5pm news here in San Diego featured a number of different stories on cancer over the last few weeks ... not ONE of them about lung cancer. The following is the text of an e-mail I sent to the anchor person who hosts the "staying healthy" segment, Carol LeBeau.




As a long time viewer of channel 10 news I've enjoyed your "Staying Healthy" series very much along with your excellent work as a reporter and anchor for 10 news. Unfortunately I will not be a 10 news viewer for much longer. Not because of anything wrong with your newscast, but because what is happening inside my own body.

You see, I have the OTHER cancer. Lung Cancer. Mine is inoperable and incurable. I don't have a "time frame" exactly, however the survival rate for my disease is less than 50 percent over one year and only 2 percent over 5 years. The way my body is reacting to the illness the doctors feel it will probably be sooner rather than later.

The reason I call this the OTHER cancer is this. There has been a TON of stories about breast cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer. Medical breakthroughs, ways to prevent the diseases, awareness stories, you name it. Yet lung cancer kills more people in the US than all those cancers combined. It is MUCH more deadly and harder to treat. And what do you hear about lung cancer on the news? What do you read about it in the papers? Very little if anything. Mostly what you hear are self serving advertisements from tobacco companies or "scared straight" type public service announcements.

And, in my opinion, therein lies the problem. Lung cancer is considered a "smokers disease". Since many of us who have lung cancer smoke, we are somehow "at fault" for getting sick. As you will remember this attitude was the main reason AIDS was not aggressively fought when it first appeared. We have seen the result of that mistake. It is not pretty.

I've run into this attitude personally. When I was diagnosed (Oct of this year) I informed my family, friends and co-workers. Often I heard the words, "well, your a smoker aren't you?". As if, being a smoker, I deserve somehow to die from a disease that eats the body from the inside out.

Which brings me to my purpose in writing this. I would like to see a change in this attitude. I would like to see REAL options for the prevention and treatment of this disease. Other cancers have early screening programs and the media helps out tremendously with making people aware of these programs. Any breakthroughs in medical treatment for these cancers are reported quickly and thoroughly. Yet lung cancer patients are often left with no idea where to turn for information. For instance, had my cancer been diagnosed even a year ago (it is a very slow growth cancer) my chances of survival would have been over 80 percent rather than 2 percent. I feel the media could take the lead in something like this. Rather than berate smokes as being bad people who deserve what they get, inform people to be sure to get regular chest x-rays with their annual check up. Rather then the self serving ads placed by companies like Phillip-Morris, inform folks that even though they might have quit smoking many years ago they are still at high risk and need to keep on top of things. Rather than millions being spent on ineffective public service spots, let folks know that the incidence of lung cancer among non-smokers is growing at a rapid rate. And, most of all, let folks know there is NO early screening process for lung cancer ... and there really needs to be one. Right now the ONLY sure cure for lung cancer is early detection and removal.

Keep up the good work. I will continue to watch and enjoy 10 news.

Dean Shaffer


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Good work! I believe about 50 % of people diagnosed do not smoke. of those many quit years ago, perhaps 10% or over 20,000 people never ever smoked. We are all treated the same- " How much did you smoke?" and then the look of well you thats what you get!

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Great Letter.

Last week I was at the Social Security office. When the guy helping me found out Gianni had lung cancer, he said, "I'm sure working with all that cement and dust wasn't good for his lungs." This is the first time that the question of smoking did not come up when someone found out about his lung cancer.


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Great letter. I have been empowered by the attitude on this board...now when people ask me if I smoked, I no longer just mumble something about having quit over 20 years ago...I now say that many people who never smoked get this disease and that it really doesn't matter, because no one deserves this.



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What a well-written letter! I loved the way you eased into the meat of the letter by hooking the reader with the first complimentary paragraph. Very cogent and purposefull, yet personal. Are there others in your area that you might send it to with a little adaptation? This is great stuff!

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