I Admit It. I'm Jealous of Pinktober.
Are you ready for it? October is here and you know what that means. Everything will be covered in pink.
A closer look at the statistics
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), breast cancer killed slightly more than 51,000 people, mostly women, in 2015.1 If one of those who died was your mom, sister, daughter or best friend, it hurt a lot to lose them. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90%.2
More than three times as many die from lung cancer as from breast cancer. Nevertheless, I'll wager that you won't see campaigns that turn everything white in November. And, you won't hear much about those 163,000 moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and best friends who succumbed to lung cancer this year either.1
Realities of lung cancer
Since I am active in the lung cancer world, I know hundreds of people who have been diagnosed with the disease. It may surprise you, but the majority of the people I know who are living with lung cancer have never smoked. Ever. A few did, but they quit long before they were diagnosed. Most of the people I know who have late-stage lung cancer are young women, with little kids and a lot of life left to live.
The ACS reports that the average age of someone diagnosed with lung cancer is 70.3 Maybe so, but when I think about the face of lung cancer in 2018, Jessie (not her real name) comes to mind. She was 27 and pregnant with her third child when she was diagnosed. She was a dancer, an athlete, a brilliant young pharmacist married to a biologist. Life was rosy for this young family until that day three years ago when her stage 4 lung cancer was discovered. Since then, life revolves around trip after 200-mile trip made to the hospital, submitting to this treatment and that, trying to stay ahead of the tumors that refuse to be stopped.
Her greatest desire is to see her kids graduate from high school. I pray that they'll find a way to cure her or at least treat her cancer as a chronic disease so that will be possible.
Thinking about November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month
However, until we start to see November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, blanketed in white and every professional football team sporting lung cancer ribbons and every major company promising to donate toward the cause if you buy their product, we're going to continue to say goodbye to far too many of our friends and family members. Until the NIH finally chooses to fund lung cancer research at a fair rate compared to other cancers, we'll continue to lose 447* people to this disease every.single.day.
You and I care. But how do we get the mass populace to quit blaming us for our disease and start caring about the fact that only 18% of us will survive for five years after diagnosis?4 And that, too often, we're leaving behind young families who will have only memories of their mom or dad?
So, yeah. Pinktober makes me jealous. And, very frustrated.
*calculated by taking the NIH 2015 death rate of 163,199 and dividing it by 365 days in a year
Are you raising children during your lung cancer journey?