This has been a big media week for me. First time ever! On Tuesday, I was interviewed by Mike Welsh on 2CC radio about my experience with lung cancer. [Podcast for 13 Nov 2012] On Friday, I was interviewed by WIN News about the devastating impact of lung cancer. On Saturday night, my family and I joined with other lung cancer survivors, their families, carers and other supporters to Shine a Light on Lung Cancer. About 150 people gathered outside Parliament House, donned T-shirts, and walked together to the Old Parliament House rose garden. We shone our torches and observed a minute’s silence for those who had lost their battle with this killer. We heard some info about cancer from a local oncologist before I joined another lung cancer survivor and a carer in speaking about our experiences. Here’s a very brief outline of my words:
Three things give me hope and make me thankful…
- The wonderful support of my family and friends. Let’s show our appreciation to these people.
- The amazing oncology care available in our wealthy society, and the rapid advances in understanding and treatment that are taking place – especially genetic understanding and targeted therapies. We need our government to invest seriously in this.
- I’m thankful for the prayers of so many and my hope is firmly in God. He offers us genuine hope in this life and in eternity. Please call out to God and seek him. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Lung cancer is the silent killer. Every year it kills more than 7500 Australians, which is more than 20 people each day. Lung cancer kills more people than breast, ovarian and prostate cancer combined. Recent research commissioned by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition found that Australian adults think breast cancer is the biggest cancer killer, followed by skin cancer. Whereas most other countries recognised that lung cancer was the biggest killer. I suspect this confusion is because breast cancer and skin cancer seem to get the most media attention. The excellent work of the McGrath Foundation and others in promoting awareness of breast cancer, and the high visibility of the Cancer Council on products such as sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, have increased awareness of both these diseases. And yet, other than anti-smoking campaigns, there has been virtually no publicity about lung cancer.
People don’t want to talk about lung cancer being the biggest killer. Tropfest winner and director of End the Unspoken, Jason van Genderen, was personally impacted by lung cancer as his father passed away late last year from the disease. He said:
“I have seen, first hand, how aggressive this cancer is and I hope End the Unspoken can raise awareness about this deadly disease. One in 16 Australians will develop lung cancer before they’re 85, yet it is a topic which is rarely spoken about. Perhaps this is because of the stigma which is attached to lung cancer?”
This week I met Victoria Tabor, a 31 year old teacher in Canberra. Victoria is a lung cancer survivor. She was not a smoker, yet an x-ray for a routine health check, before heading overseas for work, revealed a tumour on her left lung. As I spoke with Victoria, her experience was so close to my own, only it appears they caught the cancer earlier. She said in a recent Lung Cancer Foundation press release:
“I never had any symptoms but was diagnosed with lung cancer and have since had my left lung removed and been treated with both chemotherapy and radiation. I’m living proof that lung cancer doesn’t discriminate – it affects males and females, the old and the young, smokers and non-smokers – and is the most deadly cancer in Australia. I was so lucky to have been diagnosed early enough so doctors could operate and save my life.”
We need people to speak up about lung cancer. While it’s true that smoking is the single biggest cause of lung cancer, and we need to dissuade people from taking it up, we also need to dispel the myth that it’s only smokers who will get this disease. You don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer, you only need to have lungs. Funding is needed to advance research, develop better treatments, and support those affected by this awful disease. We heard information last night showing that the Australian Government’s support for lung cancer has been very small, and it finishes next year. So far, there is no commitment for the future. We need to speak up, make some noise, and let people know the truth. This November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. Check out the Australian Lung Foundation website. Share this post with others. Do the very quick online survey. Please help end the unspoken.