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Spotlight: Survivor Pat Dunn


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Spotlight: Survivor Pat Dunn

May 2nd, 2014 - by admin

When Pat Dunn was diagnosed with lung cancer in October of 2003, she found no outside support for herself or her family. “My husband supported me every step of the way and my youngest son came home to help too. If it wasn’t for that, I would have given up and just chosen to die.” Pat said.

Pat was diagnosed with Stage 3b NSCLC. At the time, a thoracic surgeon in St. Augustine, Florida told her she should get her affairs in order and that she would probably live only 6 months. After a second opinion in Boston, she had surgery to remove 2 lobes of her right lung and some lymph nodes. She had grueling chemotherapy for six months and says she spent the majority of that time sleeping or being nauseous. There wasn’t a lot for Pat to be hopeful for.

In fact, Pat reached out to large cancer organizations for support in her area and received none. One well-known organization told her that no one lives after a lung cancer diagnosis so they didn’t have programs specific to lung cancer patients. She didn’t receive a lot of sympathy either. The stigma that lung cancer is self-inflicted was something she battled regularly. People always asked her if she had smoked, as if insinuating that Pat deserved her cancer.

“Everyone asked if I smoked. And I had. I would get this look like, well you did this to yourself, what do you expect?”

Pat expected support. The same support that people diagnosed with other cancers received.

“No one asks patients of other cancers what they did to “deserve” their cancer. No one is perfect. People who have never smoked get lung cancer too. No one deserves cancer. No one deserves to die from cancer.”

Pat chose to advocate for her survivorship and for others with lung cancer.

Unfortunately, her biggest support and love of her life, her husband, passed away suddenly of a heart attack two years after Pat’s diagnosis. Her grief helped to fuel her passion to advocate for those diagnosed with lung cancer and to end the stigma surrounded by the disease.

In 2009 Pat found refuge at a local lung cancer advocacy group. She organized a 5K to help raise funds for lung cancer research and has organized a yearly vigil to raise awareness about the disease.

For the past two years, Pat has come to Washington, DC to the LUNGevity HOPE Summit to celebrate lung cancer survivorship.

“I found great support and friends here. While its a great thing to do, I do not feel like I need to raise money for LUNGevity for them to care. They support me no matter what.”

Recently Pat received a new cancer diagnosis. This time, 12 years after her stage 3b lung cancer diagnosis, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Pat has had a lumpectomy and will begin radiation later this month. Her prognosis is a good one.

The first thing Pat did after talking with her loved ones was come to the HOPE Summit Alumni Facebook page and tell her LUNGevity friends about her new diagnosis. It wasn’t “lung cancer” related, but she knew her friends could relate.

“The support I have received from LUNGevity is something I do not think I could live without ever again.”

Pat says the difference in getting a lung cancer diagnosis and a breast cancer diagnosis is vast. There is still much work to be done to ensure that people with lung cancer get the care and support they deserve so that there will be more survivors of this disease.

“When someone asks me about lung cancer I tell them that anyone with lungs can get it. We need to concentrate on better treatments and early detection and not condemnation for people who did smoke. I would tell them that we have so many more treatment options than when I was diagnosed. Many people seem to be living longer and living a better quality of life. I would tell them about HOPE Summit and that there IS much to be hopeful for!



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