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Why Lung Cancer is MY Fight / by Sue Bersh

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Why Lung Cancer is MY Fight

February 21st, 2012 - by admin

By Sue Bersh

http://blog.lungevity.org/2012/02/21/wh ... -my-fight/

I wrote about losing a best friend to lung cancer about a year ago for LUNGevity’s blog. As I have become more and more active with LUNGevity, I have met many, many people whose lives have been touched by lung cancer. They are people who know lung cancer’s M.O.: going undetected until it is in its late stages; having few options for treatment; being associated with the unfair stigma/blame that shadows this disease; taking lives quickly; and leaving people shocked that their options are few. Lung cancer is ruthless.

I lost two people I love to lung cancer. I lost my Grandma Harriet when I was 16, and I lost my dear friend, Elyse (Bernstein) Keefe, 3-1/2 years ago when she was only 45. Both were huge losses in my life, but losing Elyse was what motivated me to take action.

Like a best friend should, I lived Elyse’s lung cancer with her. My heart broke when she was first diagnosed; when her cancer returned; on the day she asked her doctor how much time she had left; when she talked about all of the things she still wanted to do in her life; and countless times in between. And there are no words to describe what I felt when I was holding her hand when she took her last breath. It was the single saddest moment of my life. Lung cancer showed no mercy to my sweet, loving and brave friend. Lung cancer took a second person that I loved — and changed me forever.

Elyse and I had volunteered once for LUNGevity. We promised each other that when she got better we’d volunteer regularly. I have followed through on that for us both. I feel her with me in all that I do for LUNGevity. It’s the most meaningful way I can think of to honor her memory and keep her close. It’s also the only way I can think of to help ensure that others don’t suffer the way she did.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who spent many years in a concentration camp during World War II, wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning (a book Rabbi Paul Cohen recommend to me when Elyse was sick) that everything in life can be taken from you except one thing: your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. What determines our quality of life is how we relate to the realities of life: what kind of meaning we assign them and what kind of attitude we cling to about them.

I lost one of my closest friends to lung cancer. I stared lung cancer in the face with her and it was terrifying. But instead of being angry and sad (and I do have a few of those moments), I have chosen to honor her journey and her memory with a legacy of love and hope. This is the meaning I have found in the loss of someone I love. This is what I have chosen to cling to.

I am honored to be a LUNGevity Board member, and I am proud to be Event Coordinator of Breathe Deep Deerfield. Through my work with LUNGevity, I now have many friends with lung cancer. For my Grandma Harriet & Elyse; for Jill Feldman, Jerry Sorkin and my other friends with lung cancer; and for the almost one quarter of a million people diagnosed with lung cancer last year — this is MY fight now.

I hope that most of you will never know lung cancer. But the odds are not in your favor. It is the number one cancer killer, and 1 in 14 people will be diagnosed with it in our lifetime. It is likely to touch your life in some way. Anyone can get lung cancer.

Please help LUNGevity fund research into the early detection and successful treatment of lung cancer. If you live in the Chicago area, join us for a day of meaning and hope on May 6th at Deerfield High School. Walk, run, volunteer, launch a balloon — register or donate today for Breathe Deep Deerfield.

WE can make a difference in the fight against lung cancer.

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