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Cheryl Delby - Funding Research


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Funding Research

September 9th, 2013 - by Cheryl Delby

Cheryl DelbyMy dad quit cigarette smoking cold turkey after 30 years. He tried a number of times before that but something about that particular day that no one will ever understand, he stopped cold. I was so proud! At the age of 71, 25 years after he quit, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died four months later.

I went with my father to several doctors’ appointments and the question “Were you a smoker?” came up each time. And when I revealed the cause of my father’s death at his wake, his smoking was often mentioned. The question and references annoyed me. Yes, he smoked, but he also quit 25 years ago! For some reason, that achievement didn’t seem relevant. There were no references to other carcinogens, such as those typically found in the auto parts he hauled as a truck driver. No one asked about the mysterious pesticide sprayed by our local farmer that killed the grape vines in my father’s garden. My dad wasn’t asked about many other things – just smoking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that smoking is a good thing. My dad knew it wasn’t – he quit – but the last thing he needed in his final days was the guilt trip he inevitably felt from the doctors who seemed to blame him for his disease.

In the period after my father’s diagnosis, I did a lot of research. While that research didn’t change his fate, I learned a lot. I was shocked to learn that lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined. Even so, funding to fight the disease pales in comparison to the fund-raising efforts for many other cancers.

My research led me to meet a woman, a non-smoker with no exposure to second hand smoke, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer while in her late forties. She led a healthy lifestyle and was shocked to learn of her diagnosis. Even so, she admitted to being embarrassed and judged as she shared her diagnosis with others. Although they had no proof, others seemed to believe that if she had lung cancer, she must have done something to cause it.

While my experience with my father and my friend isn’t a substitute for scientific evidence, it’s clear in my mind that the stigma attached to this disease has negatively impacted the survival rate of lung cancer victims. To fight this injustice, it became important to me to fund lung cancer research.

Miraculously, my friend survived for five years. Given her young age, she was able to sustain aggressive treatment and participate in several clinical trials. She also became involved in and introduced me to LUNGevity Foundation.

After contributing to a few LUNGevity events and learning more about their commitment to increased survival rates, I enrolled in their sustaining donation program. Under this program, I take comfort each month in knowing that I’m contributing to moving this valuable research forward.

Doctors will and should continue to ask about the smoking and lifestyle habits of their patients. With improved lung cancer research, however, I’m hoping that a broader level of questions will be asked to help remove the stigma associated with this disease and to improve early detection and survival rates.

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