Paying It Forward After Lung Cancer

Written in collaboration by Dusty Donaldson and Kimberly Lester


In the not-so-distant past, a lung cancer diagnosis was very nearly a death sentence. However, with the arrival of screening and more effective treatment options, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of lung cancer survivors, and expect these trends to continue. This means that the number of long-term survivors are going to grow, giving rise to new questions such as, “what do I do after lung cancer?”

If you are still in treatment, you have your work cut out for you; focus on your health. However, if you have completed treatment and are relatively healthy, consider paying it forward and helping others on their own lung cancer journey. Your experiences and empathy can be very valuable to others who are still in the middle of their lung cancer fight. Whether you are strong enough to offer support or need support from others, we are all in this lung cancer boat together.

Supporting Research and the Lung Cancer Community

If you are financially able to donate money, become familiar with the various nonprofits focused on lung cancer and give to the one that best aligns with your values. Since lung cancer is tragically underfunded compared to other cancers, one suggestion I would like to make is that if you are going to donate to a nonprofit organization, please consider giving to a non-profit specifically dedicated to lung cancer or else your donation may go toward asthma or breast cancer research.

But it is not all about money. Many people going through cancer treatment have significant financial setbacks. They can no longer work. They become disabled and must wait months for their first disability check. Their medical expenses are exorbitant. If you are struggling financially, you should not feel at all compelled to give money to any organization. But there are still many very significant ways for you to help the cause.

For those strong enough, consider donating your time or talents. Chances are there is a lung cancer 5K or similar event in your community. You can volunteer to help. On the other hand, if you are an overachiever, organize a charity event in your city.

Maybe you want to help support lung cancer research. Perhaps you want to support an organization that advocates Congress for increased research funding or improved standards of care for lung cancer patients. The nonprofit I founded, LiveLung, holds face-to-face meetings for lung cancer patients and their caregivers. We also provide gift bags to newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. There are dozens of nonprofits and as many ways to volunteer or provide support.

Connecting with Others One-on-One

Another way to pay it forward is to help other lung cancer patients — one-on-one — not through a nonprofit organization. Because they are tax exempt, nonprofit organizations have certain restrictions on how they can help individuals. But, of course, as an individual, there are no restrictions as to what anyone can do to help another person in need.

Follow social media sites, such as LungCancer.net, to search for a lung cancer patient in need. You may be surprised to see how grateful a patient will be for a $50 gas card or a restaurant gift certificate.  Maybe there is someone in your community fighting lung cancer who would appreciate a home-cooked meal, some light house-cleaning, or someone to run a few errands for them. Since you’ve been there, you know about the fatigue, nausea, and other side effects of treatment that make everyday tasks seem insurmountable. If nothing else at all, you can be a friend to others still fighting. Lend a listening ear, let them know they are not alone, and help them navigate this time anyway that you can.

There’s a saying, “If you want more kindness in the world, put it there.” Paying it forward is a great way that you can directly increase the hope and health in the fight against lung cancer. Get out there and pay it forward!

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