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Cancer Olympics

Humans tend to compare themselves against others on countless levels, like career, money, and family. Cancer patients are no exception and compare things such as cancer types, stages, side effects, survival time.

Cancer survivors have a way of referring to it as the "cancer olympics."

Sharing experiences with caution and compassion

Cancer patients compare their experiences because they want to be sure that they are not alone. That's why we are encouraged to share the stories about our cancer journey. However, this can be tricky.

The "cancer olympics" part might sound a bit like a "humble brag" when I talk to new patients. I only intend to pass on the information that lung cancer is no longer a death sentence as I try to uplift patients' optimism, give them hope, and remove fear, even only for a moment.

However, I'm cautious when I "brag" about my survival so the other patients won't get pressured. It's not a competition.

Shared lung cancer experiences

As for me, when I hear about lung cancer patients having a longer life rate than the general lung cancer population, it makes me really happy. It means I have "fellow travelers" on my cancer trip, so I don't feel alone. There is no competition at all.

I receive a lot of information about cancer-related issues from literature and online. That has become a cornerstone to knowing the cancer landscape and where I stand in this landscape.

I separate individuals and information. I never think we compete.

Addressing disparities in lung cancer research funding

Research for lung cancer is funded poorly despite the fact that its motility is higher than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.1

Research funding for cancer is never sufficient, but historically, lung cancer has been funded poorly despite its higher death rate. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, yet only 6% of the US federal research dollars spent on cancer research are spent on lung cancer.2

For example, the funding per patient for lung cancer, colorectal, breast, and prostate was $3,116, $5,398, $15,726, and $7,500, respectively, one year ago. It is a cold and mathematical reality.3

So, I have advocated for lung cancer since I became an advocate to increase lung cancer research funding.

However, a question lingers in my mind: should more research funding be allocated to lung cancer due to its higher mortality rate? Isn't it insensitive to suggest that other cancers are less urgent? Isn't it divisive to stoke patients' competition? Does it matter to anyone who is dying of cancer? Do our loved ones suffer the same?

After starting my cancer advocacy (not just lung cancer), I realized that cancer is cancer is cancer. In the end, this terrible disease will take our lives, and our loved ones will suffer from our loss, no matter where it comes from. All cancers are monsters.

Ending on a high note, from the AACR Annual Meeting, I learned that lung cancer research benefits from other types of cancer, like breast cancer. We shouldn't compete.

Support and perspective

I don't mind comparing myself to my fellow cancer patients. I feel without each other, our lives would be miserable and lonely.

Regarding research funding, we must increase overall funding for cancer research, as the governments of various countries fund and distribute vaccines for COVID all over the world.

As my psychologist has said, "Comparing with others, including cancer, is just part of that psychology. It can even be therapeutic when comparison is properly done."

"If I can survive over eight years of grueling treatments, you can do it, too."

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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