An Advocate's Point Of View
Last updated: February 2020
Each morning while enjoying my coffee, you can find me with my phone in my hand scrolling all the events that happened overnight on Facebook. Yes, I have no life. It begins my day and usually gives me a little chuckle along the way. However, there are mornings that I start off on the wrong foot and am infuriated after reading some comments. Today is one of those days.
It's about education and support
As an advocate, let me be blunt and say it: if you have nothing positive to say to a person fighting lung cancer, then don't speak. If you are misinformed and numerous people have told you that, then shut up!
I am not happy I have lung cancer and bladder cancer but I do feel the universe is putting me through this so I can help others. I mentor newly diagnosed patients and patients months and years into treatment. I try to educate people on what to expect and more importantly what not to expect.
How do you confront stigma?
This morning ranting was a person asked, "did your loved one quit smoking after diagnosis?" Most people answered yes however there were a few who stated either no or that they were down to 3-4 cigarettes a day. Personally, I feel any reduction is a win-win situation. If you have smoked two packs a day for 40 years and now you smoke 3 a day - you are a winner.
What you don't need is someone telling you, "smoking causes cancer and it's your own fault." This came from a person whose loved one has cancer! I and many others kept trying to tell her that smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer but it does not necessarily cause it. It didn't matter. She kept posting comments stating it the person's fault for getting lung cancer.
Can you see me jumping through my phone to slap her with a wet noodle? No matter what we said, it did no good. I finally decided this is not my fight to fight because it seemed no one is going to change her mind.
Stop the blame game
To all my family with lung cancer - you may have smoked, I did. But do NOT blame yourself for this disease. Many people started smoking in the '70s and '80s and the effects were not totally known at that point. We didn't think we were doing anything wrong. Well, wrong is the incorrect word. It should say we didn't know we were doing ourselves harm. Yes, I take responsibility that I smoked all those years, but I do not feel guilty. Does someone feel guilty for eating french fries all their life when they get heart disease?
Be your own advocate. Keep peace in your heart and know that you did not cause this. Lung cancer affects non-smokers as well as smokers. The number of non-smokers seems to be getting higher and higher. Could this mean something?
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.
What healthy habits do you use to improve the quality of your life?